Pain and game in the Lithuanian novel of the teens of the 21st century

A survey is given of the Lithuanian novel of the past five years. Side by side with poetry, which the Lithuanians are traditionally famous for, their recent prose has considerably advanced for diversity. A growing awareness of the importance of book marketing must have increased reader interest in home-grown prose.

The literary image of the capital of Lithuania has gained some new strata. The action of the family novel Silva Rerum (2008–2011) by Kristina Sabaliauskaitė takes place in the 17st–18st-centry Vilnius. Andrius Tapinas in his novel Vilko valanda („The Hour of the Wolf”, 2013) has invented a steampunk Vilnius reminiscent of the town in the early 1900s. Gina Viliūnė’s mystery novel Karūna be karaliaus („A Crown Without a King”, 2012) keeps shuttling between today and various historical times.

Recent history has become especially popular, enabling discussion of some sensitive areas or topics not previously covered. The novel Mano vardas – Marytė  („My Name Is Marytė”, 2012) by Alvydas Šlepikas tells about the fate of German orphans, the so-called wolf children after the Soviet colonization of Eastern Prussia. Sigitas Parulskis, already a living classic known for his apologia for scandalous books has created a scandal of his own by publishing the holocaust novel Tamsa ir partneriai („Darkness and Partners”, 2012).

Surprisingly, several China-themed novels appeared at a short interval, Undinė  Radzevičiūtė’s Žuvys ir drakonai („Fish and Dragons”, 2013) being the most distinctive of those. Previously, great expectations of a Euro novel bringing an international breakthrough had been expressed, however, in connection with „Between Shades of Gray” (Tarp pilkų debesų) published in 2011 by Rūta Šepetys, who lives and works in the United States.

Despite the complaints over entertainment or even non-literature flooding the Lithuanian literary landscape, a process sometimes even compared to the rampant spread of the notorious Sosnovski hogweed, the overall situation can be regarded as normal – criticism is active, literary magazines are published and Lithuanian literature is alive and kicking.