A New Wave of Lithuanian Writers

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When it comes to Lithuanian expatriate writers, there used to be very few in earlier generations. When Antanas Šileika’s Buying on Time was published in 1997, American literary critic and scholar Violeta Kelertas asked him why more people were not writing about Lithuanian experience. He didn’t know the answer to that. And at first, it seemed like there were more Canadians doing it than Americans. There was Montreal poet, Ray Filip (Someone Told Me I Look Like Everyman, among other titles), and Toronto novelist Irene Guilford (The Embrace and Waiting for Stalin to Die) and that was about it, unless we add Magdelana Raškevičiutė Eggleston who published Mountain Shadows in 1955.
Later, Daiva Markelis of Chicago published her memoir, White Field, Black Sheep, and more recently, from a younger representative of the same generation, Laima Vince (Lenin’s  Head on a Platter, among other titles). As well, Julija Šukys has earned a very good reputation with nonfiction works such as her Epistolophilia. All of those writers work in English.

Irene Guilford
Daiva Markelis

And then it seemed as if suddenly, a vast number of expatriate writers appeared, many of whom were celebrated in the Lithuanian anthology, Egzodika (Vilnius 2019 – Egzodika 2 came out in 2022). How many writers are there? Dozens. What they share is the experience of leaving Lithuania after independence, and all but one writes in the Lithuanian language. 

Geographer Laimonas Briedis, of Vancouver, BC, wrote his Vilnius, City of Strangers in English.

Others in the literary news today are Lithuanian bestselling author Jolita Herlyn of Germany, Australia’s talented Akvilina Cicenaite, and Chicago novelist Vilma Kava.

Valdas Papievis, photo Vladas Braziunas

Novelist Valdas Papievis of Paris is making a name for himself not only in Lithuanian, but now also in French. Born in 1962 in Lithuania, he is a prose writer and translator. From 1990-1992 he was an adviser for Darius Kuolys, Minister of Culture of the Republic of Lithuania. From 1988 to 1990 he was one of the publishers of the notable cultural magazine, “Sietynas,” independent from Soviet censorship. He also worked at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty until 2004 and still works with Lithuanian National Radio and Television (LRT). He has been living in Paris since 1992.

Papievis is the author of eight prose books. He debuted in 1989 with the novel “Ruduo provincijoje” (Autumn in the Provinces). Among his many prizes, his novel “Eiti” (To Go) was awarded as the most creative book of the year in 2011. His novel “Odilė, arba oro uostų vienatvė” (Odile, or The Solitude of Airports) was nominated for Book of the Year and was selected as the most creative book of the year in 2015. In 2016 he received the prestigious National Award for Culture and Arts in Lithuania. Both of his two translated novels were published in 2020: “Eiti”, renamed “Un morceau de ciel sur terre,” translated by Caroline Paliulis, appeared in French by Editions Le Soupirail, and his novel in German, “Odile oder die Einsamkeit der Flughäfen,” translated by Markus Roduner, was published by KLAK Verlag. His short story, Echo, or the Sieve of Time, translated by Violeta Kelertas into English, appeared in The Kenyon Review, July/August 2019.  Valdas Papievis has continued the story in Lithuanian, turning it into a novel published as “Ėko” in 2021 by the Vilnius publisher Odilė. It is being translated into English by the same translator.

Read an excerpt from “Echo” in the Vilnius Review: https://vilniusreview.com/fiction/463-valdas-papievis-echo. An interview with him about writing can be found at https://vilniusreview.com/interviews/487-valdas-papievis-i-must-spend-long-periods-of-time-doing-nothing-to-get-in-the-mood-for-writing.

With thanks to Antanas Šileika for updates.
PHOTOS: Daiva Markelis