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Editor's word from the new issue:

 

Dear Reader,

The magazine Vilnius Review that you are holding in your hands—a thick volume published once a year—is a tribute to attractive design, the printed press, and the desire to touch, feel, and flick through pages. The texts in this volume are a peculiar cross-section of Lithuanian literature from the most recent couple of years. Needless to say, it is not as exhaustive as would require not a magazine but a thousand-page anthology, but these days such anthologies are successfully replaced by internet websites.

That is what has happened with Vilnius Review: after about twenty years in print, it has moved to the internet. Now you can find Lithuanian prose, poetry, book reviews, interviews, and the like at vilniusreview.com.

The website features English translations of texts by Lithuanian poets and prose writers; essayists and authors of documentary prose; and reviews of their books, articles about the authors, and interviews with them.

As I have already mentioned, this magazine is a catalogue, a Lithuanian literary greeting, and a bridge to the literature that has been rapidly accumulated by vilniusreview.com.

The content of the magazine is diverse and colorful. Five of the prose writers featured in Vilnius Review are among the most outstanding and influential in contemporary Lithuanian literature.

The essayist, playwright, and poet Rolandas Rastauskas is a literary dandy and a flâneur. In the words of the literary critic Virginika Cibarauskė, “Rastauskas’s essays can be read as a cultural history of the Eastern Europe of recent decades, which consists of fragmentary yet telling details.”

Details also abound in the texts of the prose writer Danutė Kalinauskaitė: in her work they are sharp, mundane, and apt. She records nuanced sensations, fragrances, sounds, and movements.  Kalinauskaitė’s prose is extremely rich; it ramifies into a multitude of curves and offshoots, and tastes of magic realism.

Magic realism is also inherent in the short stories of Alvydas Šlepikas, a poet and a master of the novella. He writes about seemingly banal daily life of Lithuanian towns, about small quarrels, and simple lives of ordinary people. However, Šlepikas masterfully introduces the elements of fairytales and myths into his texts in which the subconscious nightmares of a child intertwine with the alcohol-induced phobias of adults.  These phantasmagorical images and elements elevate his novellas to a more universal level. Alvydas Šlepikas continues the tradition of Lithuanian lyrical prose while updating and rendering it more contemporary at the same time.

A similar approach to prose is characteristic of Valdas Papievis, a resident of Paris.  His prose of minimalistic narrative, distinctly poetic style, and psychologism is intended for slow reading.  Papievis’s texts are set in France, predominantly in his beloved Paris. His personage, an intellectual loafer, is similar to that of Rastauskas’s, but in Papievis’s books he is more lyrical, inclined to sentimentality, and not so ironical.

Irony is not wanting in the excerpt from the novel by Sigitas Parulskis, one of the most prolific and best known Lithuanian writers. Parulskis is an agent provocateur who is lavish with irony and is fond of mixing genres (for example, a detective novel with an intellectual one) and registers (a lyrical narrative interspersed with abrupt, blow-like ironical and aphoristic paragraphs). Passed through the sieve of psychoanalysis, sex, alcohol, and death are the writer’s dominant motifs.

In this magazine, poetry is represented by three female poets. It is women who are bold, who demolish the walls of silence, and who address those themes which, if not exactly taboo, are at least bypassed or unnoticed in contemporary Lithuanian poetry. Femininity and sexuality often used to be shrouded in various symbols and mythology, but it seems that now this practice has had its day.

Giedrė Kazlauskaitė speaks openly about homosexuality, about herself as a partner, a mother, and a creator. Her texts abound in cultural allusions, details of personal life, and reflection. She manages to combine relevance with meditation, history, and the reality that surrounds us.

In her widely acclaimed book debut Kvėpuoju, Vitalija Pilipauskaitė-Butkienė openly speaks about woman’s lust and motherhood, writes with pain about family violence, about violence targeted at girls and mothers by their next of kin, about violence that is passed on from generation to generation and cripples women psychologically and physically alike.

The youngest of the female poets, Aušra Kaziliūnaitė, belongs to the post-avant-garde, although this description is too narrow for her.  Her surrealist poetry has a tendency to shock and often resorts to the aesthetics of horror and ugliness. The poet has assumed an active public stance, fights for human rights and those of the LGBT community, and questions, in her poetry, the universally accepted rigid social norms, ripping the forms of traditional poetry apart.

Criticism has always helped in finding the path through the field of Lithuanian literature, and that is why three critics of the younger generation discuss—in brief, yet aptly and quite wittily—the most interesting genres of Lithuanian literature, that is, poetry and the essay, and also introduce the best books of 2015.  Their articles act like a guide to the world of names and books of Lithuanian literature.

Vilnius Review is making a conscious effort to cover as diverse forms of literary expression as possible, and that explains the presence in the magazine of the genre of comics, the popularity of which is growing in Lithuania.  Miglė Anušauskaitė, the author of the comics published in this volume, has found a unique niche: she plays with stereotypes of Lithuanian and world literature, mocks them, and examines the interaction between the reader and the writer. She says that her comics are concentrated ideas and observations of literary phenomena. Literature, wittily rethought by Miglė, becomes more attractive and—one hopes—encourages a person to search for a book to read.

Both in poetry and prose, Lithuanian literature gradually turns towards the themes that it kept suppressed for a long time, such as social issues, domestic violence, and the Holocaust; writers and poets have begun to direct their focus at the recent decades—the re-establishment of independence, the years of “wild capitalism.” Forms of expression are becoming more varied in poetry and prose, and a generation of writers who grew up in Europe is stepping into the literary arena.

Meanwhile, I just hope that you will experience—at least once—the joy of discovery, you will come across a memorable line, a strophe, or a paragraph, and you will be captivated by an author or a text while leafing through this magazine.

Pleasant reading to you!

Marius Burokas,
Chief editor of Vilnius Review

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