The Kukotsky Enigma

Trade Paper – $24.95

ISBN 978-0-8101-3348-8

E-book – $24.95

ISBN 978-0-8101-3349-5
Publication Date
August 2016
Page Count
432 pages
Trim Size
6 x 9

The Kukotsky Enigma

A Novel
Ludmila Ulitskaya; 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.

About the Author

LUDMILA ULITSKAYA is one of Russia’s most acclaimed and best-selling writers as well as a prominent political activist. A scientist before she began her literary career, she is the author of thirteen works of fiction, three books for children, and six plays. Her awards include the Russian Booker Prize and the Big Book Prize, the latter the most prestigious in Russia.

DIANE NEMEC IGNASHEV is Class of 1941 Professor of Russian and the Liberal Arts at Carleton College in Minnesota and the translator of No Love without Poetry: The Memoirs of Marina Tsvetaeva’s Daughter by Ariadna Efron (Northwestern, 2009) and Paranoia by Victor Martinovich (Northwestern, 2013).


"A voice of moral authority for differently minded Russians, and one of Russia’s most famous writers...." —Masha Gessen, The New Yorker

"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

"THE KUKOTSKY ENIGMA is a historical panorama written in the best traditions of Russian literature. It’s one of those rare books that treats big issues—like abortion, mental illness, and deathvery seriously, yet manages to remain tremendously entertaining.” —Lara Vapnyar, author of Still Here

"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 

"This is a novel of great warmth and scope, leavening precise realism with metaphysical excursions, that will enthrall and delight." Publishers Weekly 
"... historians of Russia will especially appreciate this book, but historians in general, as well as other readers, will discover much of value in this latest translated novel of one of Russia’s greatest living writers." History News Network