Chinghiz Aitmatov

Aitmatov, a Kirghiz who writes fiction and drama in Russian, has tested the limits of discourse in the Soviet Union throughout his 30-year career. The book combines wildly disparate elements: plots about wolves displaced from their Central Asian habitat, a Russian “holy fool” in the great tradition who preaches a new Christianity and resists drug trafficking and animal slaughter, and the ordeal of an upright Kirghiz collective-farm shepherd. The Place of the Skull is Golgotha, and a Bulgakovian interview between Christ and Pilate lies at the heart of the novel. Strangely enough, it works: the novel howls with all the grief and rage of its she-wolf protagonist.