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Nineteen Eighty Four (#110 of 2)

A Big-Canvas Path Toward Narrative Ludmila Ulitskaya’s The Big Green Tent

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A Big-Canvas Path Toward Narrative: Ludmila Ulitskaya’s The Big Green Tent
A Big-Canvas Path Toward Narrative: Ludmila Ulitskaya’s The Big Green Tent

Over the course of The Big Green Tent’s nearly 600 pages, which take us from the final years of Stalin’s reign to the collapse of the Soviet Union, novelist Ludmila Ulitskaya recounts all manner of Soviet repression, from omnipresent KGB surveillance to labor camp imprisonment to the forcible deportation of the Tatars and subsequent refusal of their right of return, and yet the novel closes with an epilogue entitled “The End of a Beautiful Era.” For Ulitskaya, who came of age in the post-Stalin era, this was the ugliest of times and the most beautiful of times, an epoch when the dreariness of Soviet public life was counterbalanced by the voracious private consumption of books.

The Big Green Tent is, in its way, a deeply nostalgic novel, wistful for a time when books really mattered. Beginning with a trio of young, aesthetically minded friends—Sanya, the musician; Ilya, the photographer; and Mikha, the poet—who dub themselves the LORLs (short for Lovers of Russian Literature), the novel’s early chapters capture that ferocious rapacity for literature which can only be fully experienced in youth, when writers like Tolstoy and Pushkin seem to hold all the secrets to life.

If I Had a Sight & Sound Film Ballot Matt Maul’s Top 10 Films of All Time

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If I Had a Sight & Sound Film Ballot: Matt Maul’s Top 10 Films of All Time
If I Had a Sight & Sound Film Ballot: Matt Maul’s Top 10 Films of All Time

Editor’s Note: In light of Sight & Sound’s film poll, which, every decade, queries critics and directors the world over before arriving at a communal Top 10 list, we polled our own writers, who didn’t partake in the project, but have bold, discerning, and provocative lists to share.

In compiling my Top 10 film list, I tried to avoid obvious choices based on general consensus. Movies like Modern Times, It’s a Wonderful Life, and The Searchers are great, and I respect them for what they are, but I almost never stop what I’m doing to watch them. The list below includes 10 films I must make a pilgrimage to at least once a year.