Just the Plague | Granta

  • Published: 02/09/2021
  • ISBN: 9781783788057
  • Granta Books
  • 144 pages

Just the Plague

Ludmila Ulitskaya

Translated by Polly Gannon

Rudolf Maier, a young microbiologist working on a plague vaccine, is summoned to Moscow to deliver a progress report to his superiors. Inadvertently, he carries the virus with him from the lab. When his illness is discovered, the state machinery turns with terrifying efficiency, rounding up dozens of people. But for many, the distinction between this enforced, life-sparing isolation and the constant churn of political surveillance and arrests is barely detectable, and personal tragedy is not completely averted. Based on real events in the Stalinist Russia of the 1930s, this gripping novel, written in the late 1970s and rediscovered by the author during lockdown – and never before translated into English – surfaces uncomfortable truths about the current Russian regime and the pandemic crisis.

Includes a new preface by the author.

Ludmila Ulitskaya may well be my favourite contemporary Russian writer. Just the Plague is powerful in its literary construction and moral clarity, not to mention its contemporary parallels

Gary Shteyngart

A voice of moral authority for differently minded Russians, and one of Russia's most famous writers

Masha Gessen

A great Russian novelist

Le Monde

The Author

Born in 1943 in the Urals, Ludmila Ulitskaya is one of Russia’s most accomplished and far-reaching contemporary writers. She is the author of numerous plays, stories and novels, and her work has won or been nominated for many prestigious international literary awards, including the Man Booker International and the Prix Médicis Étranger.

More about the author →

The Translator

Polly Gannon holds a PhD in Russian Literature from Cornell University and is past Director of Cultural Studies at the New York-St Petersburg Institute of Linguistics, Cognition and Culture.

More about the translator →

Ludmila Ulitskaya on Granta.com

Fiction | Granta Books

Just the Plague

Ludmila Ulitskaya

‘It seems to be more than he can cope with.’

An excerpt from Ulitskaya’s newly translated novel Just the Plague.

Essays & Memoir | Granta 149, Europe

Ludmila Ulitskaya | On Europe

Ludmila Ulitskaya

‘It seems clear to me that during the past ten years, Russia has reached the apex of its estrangement from Europe.’ Translated from the Russian by Polly Gannon.

Fiction | Granta 149, Europe

Poor Lucky Kolyvanova

Ludmila Ulitskaya

‘The red girls’ school stood opposite a grey boys’ school, built five years after it as if to proclaim the rational symmetry of the world.’