Ludmila Ulitskaya — The Big Green Tent, trans. Polly Gannon (FSG, November 10)
Is it a rule this year that if an American novel grows beyond 500 pages, it has to read like television? For those of you who prefer a more novelistic, readerly experience (as opposed to a watcherly one), you might go for Ulitskaya’s The Big Green Tent, one of the year’s best works of straightforward realism. Ulitskaya creates a Cold War world that will be unfamiliar for most readers, mostly because it takes place in Russia and is written by a Russian; the details, in other words, don’t seem like American foreign policy readymades. Still, the novel, which swirls around the death of Stalin, is more Pasternak than Dostoevsky. It’s also something of a re-education textbook for heavily Putinized Russians, or at least an attempt to reawaken a dissident past.