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Jurga Ivanauskaite (b. 1961 in Vilnius) is a prose writer, essayist, poet,
playwright and painter. In 1985 she completed her studies at Vilnius Art Academy
where she majored in the Graphic Arts and concurrently published her first book,
a collection of short stories. The Year of the Lilies of the Valley. Since then
the writer has published six novels, a fairy tale for children and a book of
essays. J. Ivanauskaite is probably the most widely read writer in Lithuania.
Her most recent books, "Gone with the Dreams"; Vilnius: Tyto Alba, 2000),
"Alchemy of traveling"; Vilnius: Tyto Alba, 2002), "Placebo", Tyto Alba, 2003)
were given a huge print-run and instantly became national bestsellers. J.
Ivanauskaite is one of the most translated Lithuanian authors - her books have
been translated into the English, Latvian, Polish, Russian, German, Croatian and
Czech languages. In 1994 Jurga Ivanauskaite took her first trip to India and
studied Buddhism at Dharamsala, gaining impetus to start a new page in her
literary work. Her paintings and photographs, which like her books underwent a
complete transformation after her travels in India and Tibet in the mid-1990s,
always draw crowds when exhibited. They have been used to illustrate her three
non-fiction books on Tibetan life and religion, "Tibet in Exile"; Vilnius: Tyto
Alba, 1996), "Journey to Shambhala"; Vilnius: Tyto Alba, 1997) and "Lost
Promised Land"; Vilnius: Tyto Alba, 1999). Currently Jurga Ivanauskaite lives in
Vilnius. Jurga Ivanauskaite is a unique figure in the contemporary literature of
the Baltic states, so much so that she is often considered, and considers
herself, an outcast from Lithuania's art establishment. This is an image created
as much by her own individual style and exotic, un-Lithuanian personality as by
the condescending reviews of her books by some of the Lithuanian cultural elite.
"The Year of the Lilies of the valley" was her first books that established Jurga Ivanauskaite's reputation as an unconventional writer. They circulated widely, particularly among young people who had previously shown little interest in the turgid prose and poetry allowed through Glavlit, the Soviet literary watchdog. The easy style and contemporary characters of her first short stories, published as "The Year of the Lilies of the Valley"; Vilnius: Vaga, 1985; , were an immediate popular success. Her youthful characters played Beatles songs, enthused about surrealist painters, wore leather jackets and contemplated the exciting mysticism of Carlos Castaneda. They were misunderstood, frequently depressed and disappointed with life.
That a young woman could be a literary rebel was unheard of in both Soviet and pre-Soviet Lithuania. Critics generally ignored her books, as they did with anything they disapproved of. Ivanauskaite's debut novel, "Children of the Moon"; Vilnius: Vaga, 1988) was reviewed with heavy irony.
But it secured her position among the younger generation as the doyenne of "punk" in Lithuania. Ivanauskaite's 1993 novel, "The Witch and the Rain"; Vilnius: Vaga) caused a national scandal. A love story told by three women-a modern-day bohemian outsider, a medieval witch and Mary Magdalene-it was immediately condemned in official circles as common pornography. At this time, the Vilnius municipality had a committee that carefully monitored morality in society. It passed a legal ruling that banned the novel from the capital's bookshops. The ruling stated that it could only be sold in shops selling erotic products and the author was being discussed on weekly crime programmes on Lithuanian state radio. There is nothing pornographic about this novel. Most of the Lithuanian population is Catholic, the committee did not state whether or not it objected to the novel's portrayal of the Virgin Mary. But naturally the unnecessary uproar was the perfect advertisement. The book quickly sold out, as 20,000 copies were bought nationwide in two weeks. The book was translated into German (by DTV, 2002) and into Croatian (Profil International, 2003). In both countries it was met with a huge success. Meanwhile Ragana ir lietus is being translated into Czech (Nakladatestvi Mezera).
Ivanauskaite's next novel, "Agnija's Magic" Vilnius: Vaga, 199) is set in Amsterdam around a romance between two tourists, one from Lithuania, the other from India. Since the author had recently been to a book fair in Amsterdam, much of the press surrounding the book was speculation and gossip: was the novel autobiographical?
Journey to the East
Reviews of Jurga Ivanauskaite's next book "Tibet in Exile", Tyto Alba, 1996, were more favorable. Having popularized Western culture and attitudes in her earlier books, Ivanauskaite now turned her attention to introducing Tibet to Lithuania. In fact, the first in her trilogy of non-fiction books is precisely that, an introduction. A collection of traveller's tales and insights into the religion, political situation and everyday reality of Tibetans living in exile in Northern India, Istremtas Tibetas delves deep into the soul of one of the world's most profoundly spiritual societies. It also has a personal foreword by the Dalai Lama, whom Ivanauskaite has met on several occasions. It was easy to notice that the book was written by a professional and observant writer, attentive to detail and everyday life, which enhances the authenticity of the narration and the notion of actual truth that no ardent reader can resist.
In her next book of trilogy, "Journey to Shambhala" Vilnius: Tyto Alba, 1997,, Ivanauskaite describes many of her personal experiences and her experiments with Buddhist spiritual practices and insights, both joyful and painful. It is, she says, "the story of my inner and outer journey." The book is illustrated with mandalas, which she painted at moments of intense inner conflict between her Western background and her very new experiences of living and being instructed by lamas in Ladakh and Nepal. None of the details of this very personal psychological trauma are omitted. The book ends optimistically, however:
Upon leaving Ladakh, I feel as if I have to be separated from a person who I love madly. I want to say farewell by making some tangible gesture, so I can feel a physical closeness. But what should I embrace, clasp to my breast, kiss-the mountains, the deserts, the air, the light, the silence? "Lost Promised Land" Vilnius: Tyto Alba, 1999, recounts Ivanauskaite's journey to occupied Tibet. For some time before her departure in June 1998, her name had been on a Chinese blacklist as the leader of a Tibet support group in Lithuania. Reaching the sacred land by, she writes, a "secret route via Hong Kong suggested by friends," she discovers not only the ruinous "lost promised land" of Tibet, but also the debilitating knowledge that the promised land of a pure inner state of mind and soul are lost forever to the people of the West, the author herself included. Having reached Tibet she has accomplished one of her life's goals, but she recalls the proverb that God will punish the man whose greatest wish He fulfils. It is in Prarasta Pazadetoji zeme that Ivanauskaite includes some of her verse, masking it as the poetry of a 19th-century Tibetan.
The despondent feel continues with Jurga Ivanauskaite's next book, "Gone with the Dreams"; Vilnius: Tyto Alba, 2000), which maintains the theme of Tibet but reverts to novel format. If the trilogy of non-fiction was full of exaltation and prophetic or missionary intonations. That novel is more paradoxical and ironic, and for the first time Ivanauskaite's writing contains a great deal of self-parody. She does not mock Eastern spiritual practices, but she does jeer at those involved in what she calls the "spiritual supermarket": both the credulous Western students who hope that enlightenment can be bought, like a Cadillac, and the Eastern teachers who sell ancient and very powerful esoteric knowledge like antiquities in a bazaar.
Each interrelated chapter tells the story of a character that finds himself in a dreamlike Tibetan town called "Neten," which in Lithuanian means "not there." The book follows the complicated love stories, fortunes and fates of these strange characters, while the author tries to express the idea that neither Westerners nor Easterners really know the meaning of life. Perhaps every one of us creates or dreams his one reality, or perhaps we are all simply the dream of some great cosmic consciousness.
The theme of Tibet and spiritual quest is continued again in one of the latest books by Ivanauskaite: In book of essays "The Alchemy of Traveling", Tyto Alba, 2003, the author recalls her travel experiences, thoughts, insights about visited countries, encountered people and different cultures.
Abandoning the theme of Tibet ant turning her attention to everyday life Jurga Ivanauskaite emerges as a mature novelist with her newest novel Placebas (Placebo; Tyto Alba, 2003). The book is spiced with self irony and dramatic plot. The novel starts as a detective story - with unexpected death of spiritualist Julija, who served high society clients and politicians. What it was - a murder or suicide? Tiny circle of Julija's friends try to find an answer. From her grave, Julija herself reflects the reasons and circumstances of her death.
All clues point to phantasmagoric "Placebo" organization, which through the media, advertising and new technologies manipulates the minds of people. A threatening world of "Placebo" is close to anti-utopist visions of Orwell, Huxley and every so often it looks like a parody to "Matrix". In her novel, Ivanauskaite masterfully interweaves a wide specter of genres: detective story, melodrama, romance, absurd and black humor.
Pakalnuciu metai (The Year of the Lilies of the Valley): [novellas]. Vilnius: Vaga, 1985. 2nd edition. Vilnius: Tyto alba, 2003
Menulio vaikai (The Children of the Moon): [novel]. Vilnius: Vaga, 1988
Kaip uzsiauginti baime (How to Raise One's Own Fear): [short stories and novellas]. Vilnius: Vaga, 1989
Stebuklinga spanguole (A Miraculous Cranberry): [a tale for children illustrated by the author]. Vilnius: Vyturys, 1991
Pragaro sodai (The Gardens of Hell): [novel]. Vilnius: Vaga, 1992
Ragana ir lietus (The Witch and the Rain): [novel]. Vilnius: Vaga, 1993. 2nd edition. Vilnius: Tyto alba, 2002
Agnijos magija (The Magic of Agnija): [novel]. Vilnius: Vaga, 1995
Istremtas Tibetas (Tibet in Exile): [journalism]. Vilnius: Tyto alba, 1996
Kelione i Sambala (A Journey to Shambhala): [essays]. Vilnius: Tyto alba, 1997
Prarasta Pazadetoji zeme (The Lost Promised Land): [a cultural study on Tibet]. Vilnius: Tyto alba, 1999
Sapnu nubloksti (Gone with the Dreams ): [novel]. Vilnius: Tyto alba, 2000. 518 pp.
Kelioniu alchemija: (The Alchemy of Traveling) [essay]. Vilnius: Tyto alba, 2003. 324 pp.
Placebas: (Placebo) [novel]. Vilnius: Tyto alba, 2003. 386 pp.
Ragana ir lietus
Press nams, 1994, Latvia,
Olion, 1997 Estonia
Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, 2002, Germany
Profil International, 2003, Croatia
Jumava, 2001, Latvia,.
Kelione i Sambala
Jumava, 1998, Latvia, Sofija, 2002, Moskva
Avots, 1999, Latvia
Parasta pazadetoji zeme
Jumava, 2000, Latvia
Alle traumen von einem Hund (short story). Die Kuhlschrankkiste und andere litauische Erzahlungen. Lietuviu literaturos ir tautosakos institutas, 1977, Vilnius, Lietuva.
Wie man die Angst nahrt (short story). Zwischen allen Stuhlen. Perkunas-Verlag, 2002, Germany.
Das Haus autberhalb der Stadt (short story). Meldung uber Gespenster. Otto Muller verlag, 2002, Salzburg.
Von Traumen verweht (excerpt from novel) Zwischen Vilnius und Bern. Werd verlag _ Saules Delta, 2002, Siauliai.
Les enfants de la Lune (excerpt from novel "Menulio vaikai"). LRS. 1990, France.
Histoire de cultiver la peur (short story). Europe. Revue litteraure mensuelle, 1992, France.
L'annee des muguets (short story). Des ames dans le brouillard. Anthologie de nouvelles lituaniennes contemporaines. Presses universitaires de Caen, 2002, France.
The Day that Newer Happened (short story). Lithuania in Her Own Words. Anthology of Contemporary Lithuanian Wriring. Tyto Alba, 1997, Vilnius.
Gone with the Dreams (excerpt from novel). The Earth Remains. An anthology of contemporary Lithuanian prose, Tyto Alba, 2002, Vilnius.
Czarownica I deszcz (excerpt). Sen Mendoga. Antologia literatury litewskiej. Ksiazka I Wiedza, 2001, Warszawa.
Mikor jon el Godot? (novel) Polisz. 1997, Hungary.
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