Literary mansion in the eyes of Laimantas Jonušys 3

Elvina Baužaitė, 2016-03-10
While receiving Vytautas Kubilius Prize. Regimantas Tamošaitis' photo

In brief: Translator and literary critic Laimantas Jonušys, "Every talented literary work is multi-faceted, and criticism can draw our attention to its various aspects, which normally we might overlook."

I was interested to hear about the function of the critic and how significant he is. L. Jonušys says that "most important, however, is a personal experience of each perceiver. If he experiences a writing as an opening, an elucidation and personal enlightenment then the most important objective of the literary work has been achieved - this is how the essence of it opens up. And criticism can stimulate this experience; but it can also be interesting and valuable in simpler aspects, because every talented literary work is multi-faceted, and criticism can draw our attention to its various aspects, which normally we might overlook."

They say the reading culture is booming in Lithuania. I wanted to know what the critic has to say about that. "First of all, Lithuanians generally read less books than, say, Scandinavians or Germans. In addition, some serious authors, who in many European countries are relatively well-read (even though they are not among the most popular ones) are too difficult for our readers or they simply fail to draw attention. Of course, there are readers who have a great knowledge of literature, but the overall picture is not very good," says Laimantas Jonušys.

I was wondering what the critic's relationship to Lithuanian prose was and whether he sees something promising in the writers of the younger generation. Laimantas Jonušys says that it was customary that the force of Lithuanian literature was poetry, "but during the period of independence, I would say, prose really recovered. A huge variety of good authors and writings emerged then. Some of them also wrote during the Soviet period, but they opened up vividly only during the period of creative freedom, for example, Jurga Ivanauskaitė, Ričardas Gavelis, Jurgis Kunčinas. These three, however, are no longer among us, but other authors also create original and surprising works. Some of them I had mentioned in my article Prose outbreaks."

I was curious to know what books are mostly translated to Lithuanian today. According to Laimantas Jonušys, Lithuanian Association of Literary Translators annually publishes a list of the best translated books. "There is much to choose from, though mostly, of course, they are trying to translate best sellers. It is not profitable to publish good literature without additional support. Of course, you can get that support from the Lithuanian funds or from abroad, but even with that support publishing houses do not make enough money. Perhaps, in recent years, good fiction was less translated than before. There is also a phenomenon, which has long been seen that when publishing houses introduce Lithuanians with the yet unfamiliar foreign author, they rush to translate his/hers latest book, which is not necessarily his/hers best book."

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