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reflections on belonging

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Graphic Novels

Photo from the Laime Vincė personal archive

By Laima Vincė

When I visited Lithuania a few years ago, I made a pilgrimage of visiting massacre sights and the few synagogues that remain. I’m working on a sequence of poems in acknowledgement of these wrongs. At the same time, I am translating letters sent from family in Lithuania to my grandparents referencing family deportations to work camps in Siberia. The world is so full of suffering, suffering that we needlessly impose upon each other.

By Laima Vincė

Claudia had known Aras for only a short time before they were married. They planned to spend the summer in Germany and return to Vilnius to complete their last year of medical school. The summer of 1988, after the wedding, Greta, Claudia, Aras, and his best man, Leonas, also a medical student, boarded a train out of the Soviet Union. The train stopped in Braunschweig, a stop away from the family’s home. Aras announced he was stepping out briefly to use the restroom in the station. He never returned.

Photo by Laima Vincė

By Laima Vincė

Irena taught me an enormous life lesson: Tolerance is more than just words. Tolerance is the ability to accept another, even when it hurts <...> with Irena’s passing, I have come to understand that true tolerance means finding ways to work constructively for the common good. It means letting go of the grips of one’s ego. Irena always found a way to harvest the best in each person, to inspire people to work together.

Sunset's Eye by Laima Vincė

by Laima Vincė

Was there a heaviness in the air? Or did only I perceive it? Was it the heaviness of history? Was I perceiving it because the history of tearing down the Berlin Wall, uniting Germany, freeing the Baltic States, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, from the shackles of the Soviet Union is a moment in history unique to my particular generation? We were young idealistic activists during that time. Will it always be like this for me? The past and present merging together in my mind as they superimpose onto each other? Or is it because the events of the late eighties and early nineties have left an indelible mark on me, one that I continually will revisit? When will I entangle myself from the ropes of history? When can a city in the former Eastern bloc be just a city?

Photo by Dainius Dirgėla

by Neringa Butnoriūtė

But is the poetry written by the younger generation truly bold and diverse? I would not venture to say so. Today’s debut authors are marked by how ethical their poetry is, not by any novel aesthetic strategy..

Photo by Dainius Dirgėla

by Lina Buividavičiūtė

The dominant theme common to even the most diverse of the writers is the attention given to the ordinary person or average Jo, who was given a voice in these stories  and whose experiences, from mundane to extreme, have been explored by the authors.

Photo by Dainius Dirgėla

by Virginija Cibarauskė

In other words, the Lithuanian Writers Union prizes, in addition to the symbolic capital and the cash prize and diploma given, barely increase the popularity and notability of the awarded authors. On the other hand, the purpose of these awards is not to increase the popularity of authors, but to establish hierarchies in the literary field. To put it short, they are prizes for writers awarded by writers.

Photo by Dainius Dirgėla

by Neringa Butnoriūtė

Buividavičiūtė, Kulvinskaitė, and Grajauskas, combining confession with dialogue and dialogue with irony in their debut books don’t appear bookish or sentimental in the slightest.

Book cover, Shtetl Love Song


by Stephan Collishaw

‘The last time I visited,’ Kanovich has written, ‘was with my eldest grandson. Together we read the inscriptions on the Jewish gravestones.’ Kanovich’s novels stand alongside those gravestones as a memorial to the Jonava shtetl that no longer exists.

Dainius Dirgėla, from the series Vilnius in the Puddles, 2017


by Jūratė Čerškutė

Where should we test our recall when trying to remember the books published in 2016? Some might browse through library catalogues, but it is much more likely that they will turn to the lists of books from that year: the shortlists of the Book of the Year, five in prose and the same number in poetry, and the twelve most creative books of the year.



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