Paulina Pukytė is an artist, writer, and cultural commentator. She holds a degree from the Vilnius Academy of Art, and a Master’s from the Royal College of Art in London. She writes critical and satirical articles on cultural issues and has received awards for her texts. She has published a collection of essays Netikras zuikis (Fake Rabbit), and three experimental fiction books: Jų papročiai (Their Habits), Bedalis ir labdarys (A Loser And A Do-gooder), and Lubinas ir seradėlė (Lupin and Serradella). Two of them were shortlisted for awards in Lithuania. A theatre production of Bedalis ir labdarys premiered at the State Small Theatre of Vilnius in 2015. Extracts from this tragicomic book of dialogs and monologs are included in the anthology of Best European Fiction 2016, published by Dalkey Archive Press.

Pukytė is interested in misunderstanding and miscommunication, in flaws of perception and memory. In her work she employs chance and coincidence, as well as appropriation, often upcycling found artefacts, such as objects, images and texts. At the same time poetic and ironic, humorous and critical, her work twists perspectives and meanings, deconstructing socio-ideological myths and socio-cultural clichés. She is drawn to the marginal, even banal, rehabilitating what is seemingly unimportant and “inferior” but terribly human.

She lives and works in London and Vilnius.

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Graphic Novels

Boy by Paulina Pukytė

by Paulina Pukytė


Paulina Pukyte 03Photo by Laura Vansevičienė

“What impression could have possibly been made by just a pair of shoes and a pipe?”


“Lithuania had terrible luck because the band’s instruments and traditional costumes were lost on the way.”

What—a naked pipe player represented Lithuania at an international exhibition?

No, not naked, just not wearing the traditional costume, therefore failing to make an impression, regardless of how well he played.

Not wearing the traditional costume, did he feel more naked or more non-Lithuanian?

Without the traditional costume, how is anyone to know that someone is Lithuanian and that they’re playing their pipe in Lithuanian?

And if someone who’s not Lithuanian (i.e., a Pole) was wearing the traditional Lithuanian costume, what would that person be then?

A Pole is not going to wear it.

And what is worse: a Lithuanian without the Lithuanian costume or a non-Lithuanian in the Lithuanian costume?

It’s better not to talk about that. The most important thing is to make an impression.

And what would make a stronger impression: a dressed Lithuanian or a naked Lithuanian?

A naked female Lithuanian.

No, no, this is not the official State image strategy, so let’s not talk about that—anyway, nobody ever notices those Lithuanian girls without any (traditional) clothing in our magazines and on our websites.

Usually, Lithuania is officially represented by amber, wooden folk sculpture and sand.

Is Lithuania a desert country?

No, ours is a country of green forests and blue lakes, but we also have a coast of golden sand.

Do we export sand?

No, we export electrical drills.

Are drills characteristic only to Lithuania?

Maybe not, but why shouldn’t we be proud of our home-produced drills?

But why aren’t we proud of biotechnology that we also export?

Drills are sexier.

And our lasers—aren’t they sexy?

Very much so, but they are not traditional.

And what about our pigs born with beads round their necks?

They are not post-Soviet.

And what about our Lithuanian language, the most archaic in Europe? Linguists around the world are learning it to know what Proto-Indo-European sounded like 2000 years ago.
Is it similar to Russian?


No, Lithuanian.

Why to Russian?

Maybe out of habit?

No, it’s not a Slavic language, but a Baltic one.

Does Baltic mean Deutschbalten?

No, Deutschbalten existed only in Estonia and Latvia (temporarily), while the actual Balts were the ancestors of Lithuanians who lived in these territories from 2000 years BC. Even then they collected and treated amber, the object of our national pride.

Isn’t amber found in other countries as well?

It is found elsewhere too, but Lithuanian amber is more important to Lithuania than other countries’ amber to those other countries. It’s the only precious stone we have, and moreover our most salient archaeological heritage.

Is amber really a precious stone?

It depends on what we agree upon. Maybe some don’t see it as a precious stone, but to us, it’s very precious.

Perhaps it’s better to be making an impression with our national dishes—those that don’t exist anywhere else?

Here you are, Lithuanian cepelinai. They are not cooked anywhere else, so it means they are unique to us, our authentic cultural heritage. What’s more, it enables Lithuanians to compete constantly over who will make larger cepelinai and who will eat more of them.

Is it more impressive to eat more but smaller or fewer but larger cepelinai?

It depends on what we agree upon.

And if the country is Catholic, does the fifth mortal sin (gluttony) not apply to the national dishes?

Let’s not talk about that.

And why is the name of the most Lithuanian dish not Lithuanian?

What is it then?


Not German, but Yiddish.

What—the dish or the name?

And what is better—a Lithuanian dish with a non-Lithuanian name or a non-Lithuanian dish with a Lithuanian name?

And how did a Jewish dish end up stuffed with Lithuanian pork?

Maybe it’s called integration?

Or tolerance?

It’s one of those two but let’s not talk about that.

We also have a national dish called kugelis.

Is it round?

No, it’s completely flat. Flatter than soup.

And why did round turn into flat?

Let’s not talk about that because it’s all in the past.

Do we have anything from the present?

Here you are—the yellow Lithuanian pavilion at Expo-2000 in Hanover. With its modern shape, it made the best impression.

And what are those grinning clay piglets, hoglets and mouselets inside the pavilion—is it the acclaimed Lithuanian folk sculpture?

No, no, no! Those are nothing, souvenirs, tourist kitsch, let’s not pay any attention to them. Our folk sculpture is wooden, religious, spiritual. The Pensive Christ. The Christ of Sorrow. Sad Christ. He’s not sad anywhere else but here!

Is he sad because we don’t have anything to be happy about?

Should we be happy that he is sad only here, in our country?

Do we like being sad?

We do. We are lyrists. Lyrical folk songs, traditional costumes, artificial braids.

And what makes better impression—artificial braids or fake beards?

No, no, Lithuanians don’t do fake beards. They like natural ones. Beards are a token of our glorious past. They allow us to feel like pagan priests who tended the fire of pagan altars, like warriors who defeated the Teutonic Order in the Battle of Grunwald (Žalgiris) in 1410 and like the dukes who ruled the Great Duchy of Lithuania “from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea” (in ancient times).

But this is about the past again.

Our national anthem compels the sons of Lithuania to draw strength from the past.

Why doesn’t it compel the daughters?

Maybe because it doesn’t rhyme?

Let’s not talk about rhyme.

But is it possible to become modern by constantly glorifying the past? Perhaps we should think of something new?

Why not? From now on, our country’s image will be “the courageous country”. By that we want to emphasise that we were brave enough to start the collapse of the Soviet Union.

“Where are you from?”  “Lithuania.” “Oh, from that courageous country!”

Has that ever happened to any Lithuanian abroad?

No, it hasn’t.

Why doesn’t anyone know that we have created this image for ourselves?

What is better—a good image created by ourselves that nobody knows of, or a not very good image formed about us by others that everyone knows?

They don’t even know where Lithuania is, let alone its image.

Do we not like it when someone doesn’t know where Lithuania is?

We do not.

Do we know where all the other countries are?


Every single one?

Some of them.

And where is Lithuania, actually?

In the centre of Europe.

Really? It can’t be!

Ok, not Lithuania itself, but a certain point in it is the geographical centre of Europe.

But that is in Belarus!

That’s what they think.

No, no, the centre of Europe is in Estonia. They even erected a monument for it.

But Hungarians claim it’s in Hungary.

And Ukrainians—that it is in Ukraine.

Yes, everybody wants to be the centre, but nobody knows where to measure from.

But isn’t Lithuania in Eastern Europe?

It’s been 25 years since it’s not in Eastern Europe.

Has it moved somewhere?

No, the East has moved.

Where has it moved to?

To the east.

And where is Lithuania then?

Lithuania is a bridge between the East and the West.

Or between the West and the East?

And what is better?

And what should it be?

They also say that we are not a bridge but a threshold.

Is it better to be a bridge or a threshold?

When the Lithuanian national team is playing basketball, the difference between a bridge and a threshold is of no interest to anyone.

And here’s the mascot of our sport.

What is it?

Our national tree—the oak.

Why doesn’t it have any leaves?

Because it is “energetic and dynamic”.

And why doesn’t it have a top?

Because it is “inspiring and patriotic”.

And why does it look a bit like a stump?

No, no, no, it is “a symbol of strength, firmness and reliability”.

That is precisely the impression that our Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania, demolished at the start of the nineteenth century, makes.

But what impression can it make if it’s been demolished?

Not anymore—we rebuilt it in 2009, this time from concrete (better not to talk about that), but exactly as it looked before, even though nobody really knows what it looked like before.
It is especially impressive that fake probes conducted in the fake vaults of the palace “revealed” the Gothic method of bricklaying.

Or were they real probes in fake vaults?

Or fake probes in real vaults?

Will it ever be revealed what else is hidden in the walls of this impressive palace? For example, where are the amazing ancient frescos concealed under the thick layer of plaster?
They haven’t been discovered yet. When we discover them, we’ll promptly display them to the public and tourists. In the meantime, we can show Vilnius Gothic churches with Baroque elements, Baroque churches with Renaissance elements, Classicist churches with…

And why are there so many churches? Is it because everyone is very religious?

Just for the decor.

And why, when visiting Vilnius, did Alfred Döblin cover his eyes and ears in churches?

He wasn’t impressed even by Vilnius Cathedral, the main church of Lithuania and our national pride: “Upon seeing this ghastly edifice, a Christian would turn pagan.”

Or maybe a Western European would turn into an Eastern European?

Or an Eastern European into a Western European?

Or an Eastern European into a Northern European?

Or a European into a European?

Or maybe a post-Soviet into a European?

Or a post-communist into a post-democrat?

O perhaps a native would turn into a citizen?

Or maybe the Other would turn into their own self?


This text was published in German in Im Zuge der Moderne. Ein Jahrhundert Litauen (1918-2018)
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