So you'd like to...

know more about Lithuania but were afraid to ask

A guide by James Ferguson (Vilnius, Lithuania)
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   

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You've read The Corrections: A Novel and are just dying to know if you really can buy a street in Vilnius in your name. Well, there are some streets named after famous people including Adomas Mickevicius, one of Vilnius' most famous residents, but none yet named after Jonathon Franzen. Of course, Franzen's book doesn't quite stack up to Mickevicius' Pan Tadeusz (English and Polish Edition).


History

Vilnius has changed hands several times over its 600+ year history. A recent book that takes a look at this history from an interesting point of view is Vilnius: City of Strangers, which takes a look at impressions left behind by famous visitors. Israel Cohen's Vilna (Jewish Community Series), which focuses on the Jewish experience in Vilnius, will help you sort out its tumultous history. He takes it up to WWII. John Hiden has written a fascinating account of Lithuania between the wars in The Baltic States and Weimar Ostpolitik. Anatol Lieven tries to deal with the aftermath of WWII in The Baltic Revolution: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and the Path to Independence, taking in all three Baltic countries up to 1994. And, more recently The Baltic States: Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania (Postcommunist States and Nations), which takes Lithuania and the Baltics up to 1999. Unfortunately, some of the better history books on the country aren't yet available outside Lithuania.


WWII and the Holocaust

The Holocaust remains a very thorny issue in Lithuania. There have been many books written on it. You might want to order Solly Ganor's Light One Candle: A Survivor's Tale from Lithuania to Jerusalem, which offers a more personal account. Stephan Collishaw also tries to bridge the divide in The Last Girl: A Novel. Unfortunately, Balys Sruoga's gut-wrenching account of his internment in a German concentration camp, Forest of the Gods, is not available.



Literature

Lithuania has had several famous resident writers. Roman Gary recounts his childhood years in Vilnius in Promise at Dawn: A Memoir (Revived Modern Classic). Czeslaw Milosz deals with Lithuania and other Eastern bloc countries in a collection of essays entitled, The Captive Mind. Tomas Venclova is Lithuania's most famous native son, who now teaches at Princeton and has written an impressive collection of essays in Forms of Hope: Essays. There is also Joseph Brodsky, who spent some time in Vilnius and was great friends with Milosz and Venclova. He wrote a poem to Lithuania in To Urania: Poems.


Music

But Vilnius is probably best known for its music. It was a great place for jazz in the 60's and the Ganelin Trio established international renown with Ancora da Capo. But, probably Lithuania's most stunning voice is Violeta Urmana who has sung with Placido Domingo. She made her mark in La Gioconda. One of Lithuania's most famous composers is Bronius Kutavicius and this collection of music, Last Pagan Rites explores Lithuania's pagan roots. His opera Kutavicius: Lokys (The Bear) was based on Prosper Merimee's short story, Lokis, which can be found in Carmen and Other Stories (Oxford World's Classics)



Cinema and Theatre

Lithuanian cinema came into its own at the time of the Soviet Union, producing many fine actors, including Donatas Banionas who starred in Solaris (The Criterion Collection), and post-Soviet actresses like Ingeborga Dapkunaite who played a major role in Burnt by the Sun. She can also be seen in Seven Years in Tibet. But, it is Lithuanian theatre which has come into the forefront in recent years, with its leading director, Eimuntas Nekrosius, the subject of much attention, Nekrosius and Lithuanian Theatre (Artists and Issues in the Theatre).


Travel and Language

There are various travel books to guide you to Lithuania. You can't go wrong with Lonely Planet Estonia Latvia & Lithuania (Lonely Planet Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania). Too bad Venclova's wonderful travel book on Vilnius isn't available through amazon. Lithuanian is a complex language: the oldest surviving Indo-European language with its roots in Sanskrit. Colloquial Lithuanian: The Complete Course for Beginners (Colloquial Series) provides a good introduction. But for those interested in its roots, check out Lithuanian Grammar: Lietuviu kalbos gramatika which is by far the most comprehensive book on the structure of the language.


Lithuanians Abroad

Marija Gimbutas is one of the most respected European archeologists, with a number of books including The Language of the Goddess. Stasys Knezys and Romanas Sedlickas have written an authorative account of The War in Chechnya (Eugenia & Hugh M. Stewart '26 Series on Eastern Europe).


The Struggle for Independence

Lithuania is well worth checking out. It is best known for its Singing Revolution, led by Vytautas Landsbergis, who has written Lithuania Independent Again: The Autobiography of Vytautas Landsbergis, during the time of the Soviet collapse; and the Grateful Dead t-shirts commemorating the Olympic basketball team which won the bronze medal at the 1992 Games. It has come a long way since then. Now standing on the eve of its entry into the European Union. The long road has been charted in Lithuania's Accession to the European Union: Successes and Challenges for a Rural Economy in Transition.

Products mentioned include:
1.  The Corrections: A Novel  by Jonathan Franzen
$12.79 Used & New from: $0.01
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2.  Pan Tadeusz (English and Polish Edition)  by Adam Mickiewicz
$16.47 Used & New from: $3.12
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History
3.  Vilnius: City of Strangers  by Laimonas Briedis
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4.  Vilna (Jewish Community Series) [Facsimile]  by Israel Cohen
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5.  The Baltic States and Weimar Ostpolitik  by John Hiden
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6.  The Baltic Revolution: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and the Path to Independence  by Anatol Lieven
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7.  The Baltic States: Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania (Postcommunist States and Nations)  by Thomas Lane
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WWII and the Holocaust
8.  Light One Candle: A Survivor's Tale from Lithuania to Jerusalem  by Solly Ganor
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9.  The Last Girl: A Novel  by Stephan Collishaw
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Literature
10.  Promise at Dawn: A Memoir (Revived Modern Classic)  by John Markham Beach
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11.  The Captive Mind [International Edition]  by Czeslaw Milosz
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12.  Forms of Hope: Essays  by Tomas Venclova
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13.  To Urania: Poems  by Joseph Brodsky
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Music
14.  Ancora da Capo  by Ganelin Trio
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15.  La Gioconda  by Elisabetta Fiorillo
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16.  Last Pagan Rites  by B. Kutavicius
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17.  Kutavicius: Lokys (The Bear)  by Bronius Kutavicius
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18.  Carmen and Other Stories (Oxford World's Classics)  by Prosper Merimee
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Cinema and Theatre
19.  Solaris (The Criterion Collection) [Anamorphic] [Black & White] [Color] [Subtitled] [Widescreen] [NTSC]  DVD ~ Natalya Bondarchuk
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20.  Burnt by the Sun [Multiple Formats] [Color] [Letterboxed] [NTSC] [Subtitled] [Widescreen]  DVD ~ Nikita Mikhalkov
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21.  Seven Years in Tibet [Closed-captioned] [Color] [Dolby] [Full Screen] [NTSC]  DVD ~ Brad Pitt
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22.  Nekrosius and Lithuanian Theatre (Artists and Issues in the Theatre)  by Ludvika Apinyte Popenhagen
$43.90
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Travel and Language
23.  Lonely Planet Estonia Latvia & Lithuania (Lonely Planet Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania)  by John Noble
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24.  Colloquial Lithuanian: The Complete Course for Beginners (Colloquial Series)  by Meilute Ramoniene
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25.  Lithuanian Grammar: Lietuviu kalbos gramatika  by Vytautas Ambrazas
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Lithuanians Abroad
26.  The Language of the Goddess  by Marija Gimbutas
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27.  The War in Chechnya (Eugenia & Hugh M. Stewart '26 Series on Eastern Europe)  by Stasys Knezys
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The Struggle for Independence
28.  Lithuania Independent Again: The Autobiography of Vytautas Landsbergis  by Vytautas Landsbergis
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29.  Lithuania's Accession to the European Union: Successes and Challenges for a Rural Economy in Transition  by William Meyers
Used & New from: $16.86
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About this Guide

 

Author

James Ferguson (Vilnius, Lithuania)
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
Qualifications: an American in Lithuania
Last updated: 9/13/10
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