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Editor's word from the new issue:

 

Greetings, readers of Vilnius Review, lovers of Lithuanian literature, and curious newcomers!

Here, we present  the fourth annual Vilnius Review anthology, now dressed in new garments – more colorful, and, we hope, more pleasing to the eye. Its contents, of course, remain as interesting and excellent as before.

For Lithuanian prose, this year was a year of short stories – more outstanding short works were published than truly noteworthy novels. But the first piece presented in our Vilnius Review anthology is an excerpt from Virginija Kulvinskaitė’s novel When I Was a Malalietka. This novel (much like the excerpts from Rimantas Kmita’s Pietinia kronikas, published in last year’s anthology) tells a coming-of-age story set in the 1990s and 2000s in Vilnius but the narrative expands into the twenty-first century as well, and thus a coming-of-age novel turns into a campus novel. Clearly, When I Was a Malalietka does not fit within the confines of a single genre. According to literary critic Elžbieta Banytė,

The method in which the novel is written – by the way, very possibly the very first work of Lithuanian literature that may be described as what usually translates into the Anglo-Saxon tradition as the term “contemporary novel” – could be called “photographic writing.” The writing is done as if to record certain moments or states of feeling or, if nothing else, the changing city and its people. It is precisely because of that quality that the text is somewhat nostalgic and it is so easy for the reader to begin reminiscing about their own experiences in the 1990s and 2000s.

The other three authors published in our anthology are masters of the short story. Writer Daina Opolskaitė received the European Union Prize for Literature for her short story collection Pyramids of Days. You will find one story from the book – “The Miraculous Man” – in this anthology as well. Daina Opolskaitė continues the traditions of classical Lithuanian fiction: her works are marked by a subtle psychologization, lyricism, and a rich, metaphoric language. Critic Virginija Cibarauskė states that “the core theme of Pyramids of Days is guilt: past deeds, both conscious and uncomprehended/unrecognized, form the foundation of the pyramid of life that is being built every day.”

Many of Opolskaitė’s stories tell of an injustice experienced or inflicted in childhood and of later attempts to reconcile with or rectify it. These tales may appear traditional, but Opolskaitė’s works also contain a factor of surprise – she modernizes a traditional genre and imbues it with elements of horror, mysticism, and fantasy.

Jurga Tumasonytė’s second book, titled Mermaids, also contains ample elements of fantasy. A short story of the same name is published in this anthology, and it is an almost classical example of true science fiction. Such a novel might as well have been written by Clifford Simac or Robert Sheckley. But in Lithuania, a country that does not have any deep-rooted traditions of fantasy literature, the short story reads in a fresh and novel tone.

Tumasonytė’s heroes are people from everyday life – ordinary, perhaps even dull. Usually extraordinary are the situations and circumstances that they find themselves in. According to critic Neringa Butnoriūtė, “Tumasonytė’s prose is intriguing due to its specific way of presenting ideas: it feels like you are observing routine as something exotic. All moments in the characters’ lives are expressively presented, while the background of their surrounding trifles swells with all sorts of information.”

Be as it may, Vidas Morkūnas’s short works stand out as perhaps the most unusual from all those written by the rest of the prose authors and published in this anthology. They can be called short-short stories, flash fiction, or “minimal nocturnes.” The short stories of The Wayfarers’ Stations are situated on the dark, dreadful, grotesque, and funny (in the macabre sense of the word) margins of daily life. These are the Roadside Picnic of our times, our (neo)gothic literature, and the chronicle of our absurd life – both out in the country and in the cities. Critic Ramūnas Čičelis notes that “Morkūnas’s book is important and interesting as literature that inspires us to think about whether there exists a system in the world that would not create outcasts or if such a system is at all possible.” But the author does not limit himself to portraying the ostracized. He plays with the expectations of his readers, often leaving enough space for them to develop their own biographies for the characters as well as the context and endings of the stories. He also plays with the literary genre, weaving a strong element of horror and mysticism into his narratives.

The poetry pieces published by Vilnius Review this year are colorful and multifaceted. From Kornelijus Platelis’s mischievously recreated mythological narratives and classical poetic structures to Vaiva Grainytė’s especially avant-garde, object-esque, language-breaking poems to the works of Rima Juškūnė, which describe the experiences of emigrants. From Ernestas Noreika’s cosmic verses, which speak of humanity and the Universe using strings of metaphors, to the works of Jurgita Jasponytė, deeply embedded in folklore and echoing the sounds of the old songs.

Common Wheel, a book by Mindaugas Nastaravičius, deserves a separate mention. This unusual little book can be read like one large poem-contemplation on generational change, on the author’s father and his death, and on the author himself becoming a father and the responsibilities it brings. And it is at once a contemplation on writing and its significance, on why people write poetry, what it deals with, and what can be said through it. Critic Neringa Butnoriūtė describes Nastaravičius’s work in the following way:

within the schematization of all modern poetry, within its meticulously thought-out theses, constantly recreated tropes, and exposed traumas, this slow, almost meditative wandering through a text with no aim of grasping everything at once, in which the poet just quietly demarcates all the crucial moments in his life – this wandering feels universal, deceitfully honest, and highly impactful.

Vilnius Review continues its essay series “Reflections on Belonging,” in which Lithuanian writers and writers of Lithuanian descent share their perspectives about literature, translation, language, gender, identity, and belonging. In this anthology, you will find texts written by Denmark-based poet Neringa Abrutytė, Berlin-based writer Lina Ever, Mexico-based Jolanta Ona Vitkutė, Hawaii-based Vaiva Rykštaitė, and the Chigacoan Gint Aras.

The 2019 anthology contains a few interviews as well. Saulius Vasiliauskas is in conversation with Rimas Uzgiris, loyal Vilnius Review colleague and a prominent translator of Lithuanian poetry into English. Vasiliauskas also converses with prose authors Vidas Morkūnas and Daina Opolskaitė.

The anthology concludes with a concise list of the most important Lithuanian literary festivals and prizes, and we also provide a list of books written by Lithuanian authors that were published in foreign languages over the past three years.

May your reading be calm and deliberate!

Marius Burokas

Editor-in-Chief

Vilnius Review

 

 

 

 

 

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