American author Michael Cunningham speaks with Lyudmila Ulitskaya

Cunningham: Do you feel that writers have a moral responsibility, a political responsibility, and if so how does it manifest itself in our work?

Ulitskaya: I have had quite a long journey, and from carefree and joyful writing I gradually began to notice that my words matter and that this moral responsibility does exist. With years it becomes an even heavier load for me but it has to be said that I have accepted it. I have accepted this challenge. It is very hard.

Cunningham: Yes. Could you talk about how your sense of moral responsibility is in your mind, as you and I know, it is mostly just the days and the days and the days. How does your sense of moral responsibility live with your need to write a sentence and another sentence, and another sentence?

Ulitskaya: You know, during the last ten years, I have had to constantly step out of my writing to do journalism. To have a conversation with the public, to have a conversation with my contemporaries and I cannot say that I consider this my purpose, and I do not even think that I do it well.

Nevertheless, circumstances force me to make statements that are far removed from my own literature about the moral, social, and political matters. This does not give me joy.

Cunningham: Yeah. I understand. If this is not too personal, could you talk a little bit about what you find most difficult to write about? If it is too personal, just slap me and I go away.

Ulitskaya: You know, no, no. This is a very good question. And I, of course, think about it constantly. The thing is that each of us, not just the people who write, but every person, has a limit where they stop. Stop in their thoughts, stop in conversations. And for me it is very important to constantly think about it, and strive towards it, broaden those limits, and to walk at the edge of what is possible, possible for me.

Cunningham: Yeah. Yeah. I understand that.

Ulitskaya: And for me this is always difficult, and pretty torturous, and I think that I constantly am expanding those limits.