On the occasion of its delivery as the keynote speech at the international literature festival odesa vii, we are pleased to present “A Life of Reading Dangerously” by Lyudmila Ulitskaya, translated by Zakhar Ishov.
The internationally acclaimed author of The Big Green Tent, Daniel Stein, Interpreter, and numerous other books, Ulitskaya discusses her life in Soviet Russia and the long list of forbidden reading from her childhood and onward: “In those years, even Dostoevsky was not published. He was considered suspect.” She tells how Nabokov’s Invitation to a Beheading turned her world upside down, and Leon Uris’s Exodus led to her exodus from a career in genetics. She also looks at the “raznočinec” and the part the Russian intelligentsia played in its own destruction, which nevertheless did not put an end to her lifelong commitment to “passionate, intense, intelligent, and arduous reading.”
Thanks to Ellen Hinsey and to the organizers of the festival, who granted permission for this translation and publication.