Read Around the World: Lithuania
It’s been a while since we have done a Read Around the World post. This month we are lucky to have a guest blogger (Inga from readingaread) joining us to share her thoughts on her home country and her literature. Make sure to stop by and visit her blog.
I pass the baton over to her and she will take it over from here. Please visit her blog and check out her recommendations. Make sure to scroll down and see her photos at the bottom!
I am Inga from Lithuania, a regular visitor to this here blog, that is my favourite reading-related nook online. I dare calling myself a bookworm with no time to read, a perpetually unfortunate affair. Most often you’ll find me reading fiction, both classics and contemporary, that I either buy in second-hand shops or get as presents. First thing I do before going on holiday is check local bookshops and I always make sure to leave space in my luggage for a book or two as selection in my own country is rather limited.
- Lithuania was a kingdom once, back in 1250s, but it only ever had one king – king Mindaugas, who united the lands. To this day we celebrate his coronation on July 6th. It’s actually a bank holiday.
- Lithuania, or so called Grand Duchy of Lithuania, was the largest country in Europe during the 14th century. You can be sure we tell that to every foreigner we meet.
- Our national dish is called cepelinai (boiled mashed potatoes with a stuffing) and it takes this name from the word zeppelin, because it has a similar shape.
- Thomas Mann spent some years in Nida, a beautiful resort town located between a lagoon and the Baltic sea. A lot of people visit the resort because of that alone.
- Lithuania is considered to be the center of Europe geographically.
- Lithuanian is said to be one of the oldest languages and it is related to Sanskrit. This too is something we never fail to mention.
- Famous people of Lithuanian descent – Pink, Robert Zemeckis, Anthony Kiedis, Jonas Mekas, Brandon Flowers, Jason Sudeikis, Sean Penn, Bob Dylan, Arija Bareikis, Ruta Sepetys, John C. Reilly, Charles Bronson, etc.
- Basketball is called a second religion in Lithuania.
I’ve been meaning to read more Lithuanian literature for ages but it somehow always remained just a thought at the back of my head. When Jen asked me to contribute to Read Around the World column I gladly agreed in hopes it would motivate me to finally dig deeper into the Literature of my own country.
Once I did, I remembered why I read Lithuanian books so rarely. My eternal question is: can Lithuanians ever write books that do not demand so much of your mental concentration? They write in symbols, in dreams, they assume you are knowledgeable and well educated and very attentive. Forget about finishing a book in a day or two. Once you are done you will remain stuck in it for a long time not ready to experience anything like that any time soon. And yet, you will be rewarded, I promise you that.
There were two books I always wanted to read and as I couldn’t pick one I decided to go for both of them – they are well known among Lithuanians and considered classics already: Tūla by Jurgis Kunčinas and Vilnius Poker by Ričardas Gavelis
Once a country goes through an historical event or events that shape its whole being, you are bound to find it referenced to in local literature a lot. For Lithuania it was Soviet occupation and you can find its traces everywhere. Without it, neither of these books would exist because they breathe of the times past. There is a lot of angst, disappointment and struggle here. It is all internal and very well guarded, because you never knew who was watching and what a careless remark or ‘wrong’ expression could cost you.
Here are my two recommendations and reviews for Lithuanian literature:
- Tūla by Jurgis Kunčinas: This book is an ode to a town, or rather a district in a town and to a woman. The two great loves of a man who is lost and who will never find his way but will be able, as it seems, to survive it all. You get to experience his most secret thoughts and desires, things that don’t get to resurface but are hidden and fed by loads of alcohol and observation. What happens to an intelligent man in the times when your intelligence can be your peril? When you read this book you walk the streets of Vilnius and you love Tūla fiercely even though you might not even like her, because you have no say in this, just like the narrator himself.
- Vilnius Poker by Ričardas Gavelis: As the title suggests, Vilnius is an essential character in this novel. And I don’t say ‘character’ lightly. This dark tale will have you questioning everything and once you have a certain idea about what is happening it will drag the carpet from under your feet. Vytautas Vargalys is a former partisan and political prisoner who seemingly leads a peaceful regular kind of life in Vilnius, working in the library. Of course, things are not as they seem and we get to roam Vilnius in Vytautas’s head and what a trip it is.. You will find it hard to know if he is dreaming or not, and once you realize he is not, you’ll wish that he was.
Below you can see some photos that I took of Lithuania. Most of them are photos from Vilnius.