The Kukotsky Enigma
The Kukotsky Enigma
Translated from the Russian by Diane Nemec Ignashev
The central character in Ludmila Ulitskaya’s celebrated novel The Kukotsky Enigma is a gynecologist contending with Stalin’s prohibition of abortions in 1936. But, in the tradition of Russia’s great family novels, the story encompasses the history of two families and unfolds in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and the ruins of ancient civilizations on the Black Sea. Their lives raise profound questions about family heritage and genetics, nurture and nature, and life and death. In his struggle to maintain his professional integrity and to keep his work from dividing his family, Kukotsky confronts the moral complexity of reproductive science. Winner of the 2001 Russian Booker Prize and the basis for a blockbuster television miniseries, The Kukotsky Enigma is an engrossing, searching novel by one of contemporary literature’s most brilliant writers.
"Ulitskaya exposes sudden shifts in relationships and fortunes without intense dramatic buildup, and without lengthy introspection afterward. This lean approach, which favors events over character, makes the work all the more revealing, as though the pressures of Soviet life can not permit the luxury of lingering. Men and women must simply continue to play the hands they’ve been dealt. If there is a sense of inevitability in the novel, there is also hope. However flawed it is, love sustains Pavel and Elena through decades of silence. Even a vision of the afterlife contains redemptive features, as bodies are revived and remade. At its core, this novel is a masterful portrait of individuals who find solace where they can, and who endure through personal disillusionment with the strength that only the pragmatic can find." —Foreword Reviews
"Ulitskaya’s novel is a true enigma—it is mysterious, layered, and fascinating... this novel, without any hesitation, is a must-read." —World Literature Today