A Note from the Editor:
Warm greetings to all of you, our critical readers and charitable critics. More than once I’ve been asked (as I’m sure all of you have as well): Where can I read your poetry? Your prose? Who are your most interesting writers? What is Lithuanian literature like? What is most important to the writers in your country?
And how does one answer an ordinary traveler, a tourist, a friend, or a colleague, be they on a brief sojourn to Lithuania or seated at a monitor on the other side of the Atlantic? You can only mention vaguely the first bookshop you remember and murmur embarrassingly: “You might find something in there. I seem to recall something was published a while back, but I don’t know if it’s still around...”
One of those somethings was No Men, No Cry, a collection of prose written by women published in 2011 by the International Cultural Programme Centre (now the Lithuanian Culture Institute). Ann Morgan, writer and the founder of the blog A Year of Reading the World, discovered the anthology on Amazon and read it. She’d taken on the project of reading one book from every country around the world and writing about it, and her description of her reading odyssey became quite popular, reaching a wide, global audience.
In 2012 Ms. Morgan wrote the following about Lithuania in her blog: “All the more surprising, then, that a nation that is so widely travelled and that seems to have one foot of its identity planted in the diaspora should be so poorly represented in the translation stakes. Who knows? Maybe e-anthologies will succeed where the European Union Prize for Literature has so far failed in raising the nation’s literary profile. Only time will tell.”
And time did tell. Since she wrote those words, the situation has changed quite a bit, and in recent years several novels and collections of Lithuanian essays and short stories have been published in English, French, and German. But what if, let’s say, someone in Britain were to go to their local bookshop (be it bricks-and-mortar or online) in search of a Lithuanian novel to read? As things stand, they’d come up with nothing.
But there is hope. It seems Lithuanians are finally understanding (after more than 20 years of use) that the best tool for the dissemination and popularization of literature is the Internet. And the best way to present the literature of a small country is not to hand out free brochures or pamphlets, business cards or magazines, but rather to open a digital window to anyone who is curious, who is searching, or who is just passing by.
The Vilnius Review website is such a window. In our view there is no such thing as “small” literature; there are only writers who are not good enough or writers who are not publicized enough.
Our website will continually publish texts from Lithuanian poets, prose writers, essayists, and documentarians, translated into English, as well as reviews of their works, articles about them, and interviews with them.
I believe that the Vilnius Review will also provide a space and a voice for Lithuanians writing from abroad, as well as works created by emigrants (writing in Lithuanian or in English). Currently these writers are few in number but there is no doubt their ranks will only increase in the future. I understand that Lithuanians working abroad have big ambitions—they cannot be constrained by borders or language—and we want to contribute towards broadening their audiences, and perhaps even become the starting point for new journeys into writing.
We’ll publish their texts, book excerpts, and interviews with them. We’ll also strive to introduce the English reading public to the works of authors writing abroad who are in one way or another connected to Lithuania or Lithuanians.
The Vilnius Review is not a news site—we will move and develop slowly but consistently. New poems, prose, reviews, essays, and other texts will appear monthly. There are many interesting writers in Lithuania and Lithuanian writers abroad; it’s simply a matter of translating those writing in Lithuanian and making their work accessible in one place.
We have many plans, and we must hope and believe they will all be realized, that the Vilnius Review will grow and strengthen, and that the number of writers and readers will increase along with it. We trust that, in time, reading the Vilnius Review will become not only a habit but also a necessity for a dedicated audience.
In the meantime, we are open to opinions, suggestions, criticisms, and, of course, contributions. Write, rejoice, criticize—let the discussion be lively!