reflections on belonging

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Editor's word from the new issue:


Greetings, dear readers and admirers of literature!

This is the fifth Vilnius Review anthology offering insight into selected Lithuanian literature that is both interesting and of high quality.

The Lithuanian writing scene has dramatically expanded during recent decades, so it comes as no surprise that the geographies of the stories of the three authors published in this anthology range from Germany and Norway to indeterminate and conditional fantasy lands.

The first piece in our Vilnius Review is an excerpt from The Library of Beauty and Evil, the most recent novel written by European Union Literary Prize winner Undinė Radzevičiūtė. It is a stylized novel set in the era of the Weimar Republic. According to literary critic Virginija Cibarauskė, Radzevičiūtė “chooses to use the past as an exotic fetish and a rehearsal for today in her novel The Library of Beauty and Evil. This book, genre-wise, is varied: it utilizes popular literary strategies (detective story, noir), contains many references to literary, photographic, and art texts, and deals with artistic and philosophical inquiries, including questions about good and evil, the individual and society, totalitarianism and global centralization. In other words, it is a stylish postmodern novel set in Weimar-era Berlin and aimed at a wide readership.”

The Library of Beauty and Evil is a novel-puzzle, a novel-box, and an ironic replay of the sun setting over Europe (considering that Europe has been experiencing a sunset during the last century or more, and most often a stylish one, too).

Akvilė Kavaliauskaitė, established journalist, TV producer, and host, , is the next unique author presented in this issue. Her second book, a collection of short works titled Bodies, received considerable attention and garnered praise for its fresh outlook, laconic style, attention to detail, and intriguing storytelling.

Literary critic and poet Lina Buividavičiūtė writes that “an important aspect that defines the short stories is the understanding of internal and external journeys—from Norway to Italy, from Zarasai to Mallorca, from the usual beginnings or strangely twisted original plots to extraordinary endings. The characters’ journeys are toward themselves and others, and sometimes quite contrarily, it appears that the journey is made in the opposite direction. The wide geography of Bodies encourages us to use our imagination and allow ourselves to be transported to unknown worlds.”

The stories written by Saulius Tomas Kondrotas, one of the most well-known contemporary Lithuanian writers, transport their readers to unknown worlds perhaps witnessed in a dream or seen and visited at a time beyond conscious recollection. The release of his full collection of stories for the first time this year was a true event on the literary scene and for many serves as a reminder that Kondrotas, a man who rarely writes and seldom publishes, is a true master of his craft.

Literary critic Jūratė Čerškutė accurately observes that Kondrotas’s works remind us “what it means to read good contemporary classic modernist (Lithuanian) literature. Kondrotas’s texts allow readers to recall how much they appreciate good writing. […] Kondrotas’s texts can be flexibly sorted into a number of thematic categories: philosophical, mythical, and historical stories, stories of love and betrayal, and stories of surprises and miracles of the mundane. All  are strictly supervised by time, memory, and history, which form the holy trinity of his wisdom-emanating work.”

I sincerely hope that Kondrotas’s works will soon be published in English or another European language—I believe that foreign readers will appreciate his surreal, cryptic stories.

The poetry published in this issue of Vilnius Review encompasses a wide range of topics—from poet Enrika Striogaitė’s works, full of understanding and compassion (as well as social criticism), focusing on the regular people we meet every day and their irregular and complex lives, to the playful, slightly ironic, and somewhat romantic sonnets by Antanas A. Jonynas.

This anthology also contains poems written by Tomas S. Butkus, taken from his unique work Lakeland. According to Neringa Butnoriūtė, “Lakeland, Butkus’s latest book, comprises his very diverse work from 1997 to 2020.  Over the course of many years, Butkus crystallized a method for structuring his work and revealing its potential. The textual (poetry of various genres) and visual (photography, montages, and maps) parts are well-balanced in the book. At first sight, this classic combination resembles an autobiographical atlas of poetry. However, the author’s suggestion is to read Lakeland as a narrative, ‘a novel of verses and narrative poems.’” 

I would describe Ieva Toleikytė, another poet whose works are found in this issue, as a poet concerned with the relationship between humans and nature. She reconsiders the place that humans occupy in the natural world while being concerned with ecological issues and fascinated by the universal processes of decomposition, decay, withering, and death found everywhere in nature, but she is equally enchanted by the beauty of birth, growth, emergence, and evolution.

Incidentally, three of these authors (Striogaitė, Toleikytė, and Butkus) were included in the top-five shortlist of the Best Poetry Books of 2020.

For the fourth year now, Vilnius Review continues its “Reflections on Belonging” series in which Lithuanian writers and writers of Lithuanian origin write about literature, translation, language, gender, identity, and belonging. It seems that voices from Australia (with but one exception) predominate in this year’s anthology. This anthology contains a poetic essay written by American poet Malachi Black, currently residing in Lithuania, and the family history of Francesca Jūratė Sasnaitis, who lives in Australia. The other authors are Australian-born futurist Kristina Dryža, with her piece on how the pandemic has impacted us all, and prose writer and Sydney resident Akvilina Cicėnaitė Charles with an essay on nostalgia, solastalgia, ecology, and globalization.

Our traditional set of interviews includes Saulius Vasiliauskas’s conversations with poet, translator, and National Prize laureate Antanas A. Jonynas, National Prize laureate, poet, and playwright Vaiva Grainytė, and poet Ieva Toleikytė.

May your reading be pleasant and deliberate!

Vilnius Review
Marius Burokas







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