Lyudmila Evgenyevna Ulitskaya (born February 21, 1943) is one of the most widely read and internationally acclaimed modern Russian novelist and short-story writer who, in 2014, was awarded the prestigious Austrian State Prize for European Literature for her oeuvre. In 2006 she published Daniel Stein, Interpreter (Даниэль Штайн, переводчик), a novel dealing with the Holocaust and the need for reconciliation between Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
Ulitskaya was born in the town of Davlekanovo in Bashkiria and grew up in Moscow where she took a degree in genetics from the Moscow State University. Having worked in the field of genetics and biochemistry, Ulitskaya began her literary career by joining the Jewish drama theatre as a literary consultant. Her first published short fiction appeared in 1990. Today, Lyudmila Ulitskaya divides her time between Moscow and Israel
In her fiction, Ulitskaya seemingly describes and observes her characters at an equal distance from each one. Rather than going in for character development or delving into the tortured workings of her characters’ psyches otherwise perceived as the hallmark of Russian writing, Ulitskaya favors capsule descriptions, though she acknowledges that tortured her characters are. Generally speaking, she makes little use of dialogue. Masha Gessen, in her tribute article in The New Yorker in October 2014, finds that Ulitskaya's writing makes compelling, addictive reading. Gessen reports that she was driven entirely by the desire to learn what happens next.
Among her interlinked themes are: the need for religious and ethnic tolerance; the problem of the intelligentsia in Soviet culture; how women shape new gender roles in society; everyday life as a literary subject; and new images of the body (the sexual body, handicapped body, etc.).
Ulitskaya authored two movie scripts produced in the early 1990s: The Liberty Sisters (Сестрички Либерти, 1990) and A Woman for All (Женщина для всех, 1991). She regularly publishes commentary on social issues and is actively involved in philanthropic projects increasing access to literature. In March 2014 Ulitskaya was among the key speakers at the Moscow Anti-War demonstration.
Ulitskaya's first novella, Sonechka (Сонечка), published in Novy Mir in 1992, almost immediately became extremely popular, and was shortlisted for the Russian Booker Award. Her works have been translated into several languages including English, and received several international and Russian literary awards, including the Russian Booker for Kukotsky's Case (Казус Кукоцкого) (2001). Ulitskaya was the first woman to receive this distinguished prize.
In Germany her novels have been added to bestseller lists thanks to the featuring of her works on a television program hosted by literary critic Elke Heidenreich. Today her writing is much admired by the general reading public and critics in Russia and many other countries.