Skip to main content
Trade Books For Courses Tradebooks for Courses

The Big Green Tent

A Novel

Ludmila Ulitskaya; Translated from the Russian by Polly Gannon


The Big Green Tent Download image

ISBN10: 1250097444
ISBN13: 9781250097446

Trade Paperback

592 Pages



Request Desk Copy
Request Exam Copy


Sign up to receive information about new books, author events, and special offers.

Sign up now

The Big Green Tent tells the story of three school friends who meet in Moscow in the 1950s and go on to embody the heroism, folly, compromise, and hope of the Soviet dissident experience. These three boys—an orphaned poet, a gifted yet fragile pianist, and a budding photographer with a talent for collecting secrets—struggle to reach adulthood in a society where their heroes have been censored and exiled.

The Big Green Tent offers a panoramic survey of life after Stalin and a dramatic investigation into the possibilities for individual integrity in a society defined by the KGB. Each of the central characters seeks to transcend an oppressive regime through art, a love of Russian literature, and activism. And each of them ends up face-to-face with a secret police that is highly skilled at provoking paranoia, division, and self-betrayal. Ludmila Ulitskaya’s novel ultimately belongs to the tradition of Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, and Pasternak: it is a work consumed with politics, love, and belief—and a discovery of light in dark times.


Praise for The Big Green Tent

“As grand, solid, and impressively all-encompassing as the title implies.”—Lara Vapnyar, The New York Times Book Review

“You don’t have to be a compatriot to admire Ulitskaya’s honesty and straight-faced irony, or her uncanny ability to marshal endless digressions and intentional stumbles into a gripping tale.”—Leonid Bershidsky, The Atlantic

“Like that other plot-forward dissident, Nobel winner Boris Pasternak, Ulitskaya puts characters first and politics second. According to the oddsmakers, she might follow him to Stockholm one day.”—Boris Kachka, New York magazine

"The Big Green Tent, for all its grand ambition, manages an intimacy that can leave a reader reeling . . . a masterpiece."—Colin Dwyer, NPR

"With both intimacy and cosmic scope, Russian novelist Ludmila Ulitskaya weaves an engaging tale of a group of cold war-era Soviet friends . . . Ulitskaya’s easy-going manner and sense of humor are attractive and it doesn’t take long to trust she knows what she’s doing . . . The translation, by Polly Gannon, is light and lively, wonderfully devoid of accent or awkwardnesses."—The Christian Science Monitor

"Often it is achievement enough for a writer to depict a vast array of characters with insight and great sensitivity for each; Ulitskaya does this and more . . . It is undeniable that with this novel Ulitskaya has pulled off a multipronged feat."—Kim Hedges, Minneapolis Star Tribune

"A sweeping novel of life in the Cold War Soviet Union, with plenty between the lines about life in Putin’s Russia today . . . The greatest tragedy of Ulitskaya’s story is that it comes to an end. Worthy of shelving alongside Doctor Zhivago: memorable and moving."Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"For Western readers, the novel's sparkling imagery makes real the drab and dangerous Soviet era, with its scarcities and constant presence of the KGB. The characters are drawn with humor and melancholy yet endowed with hope and a love of literature. A great introduction for readers new to Ulitskaya."—Library Journal (starred review)

Reviews from Goodreads


Read an Excerpt


It’s fascinating to trace the trajectories of people destined to meet. Sometimes such encounters happen without any special help from fate, without elaborate convolutions of plot, following the...

About the author

Ludmila Ulitskaya; Translated from the Russian by Polly Gannon

Ludmila Ulitskaya is one of Russia's most popular and renowned literary figures. A former scientist and the director of Moscow's Hebrew Repertory Theater, she is the author of fourteen works of fiction, three tales for children, and six plays that have been staged by a number of theaters in Russia and Germany. She has won Russia's Man Booker Prize and was short-listed for the Man Booker International Prize. A strong advocate for freedom of expression, she recently published a volume of her correspondence with the imprisoned Russian businessman Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

(c) Basso Cannarsa

Ludmila Ulitskaya

Author Profile at Read Russia