Maranta - a journey towards self and faith 0

Laura Verbickaitė, 2016-05-04

In brief: Birutė Jonuškaitė's novel Maranta (Vilnius: Lietuvos rašytojų sąjungos leidykla, 2015) reveals the destinies of three generations of women through the main character Rasa's tireless search for peace of mind. We learn not only about their love stories, but also the details of life in a remote village on the Lithuanian-Polish border; the character's strength (especially women's) which they draw from the customs of their land, their family and faith.

The first question pops after opening the book - what exactly is that maranta? The folk name for maranta is the plant of Ten Commandments, because it has ten dark spots on its leaf's surface. After ascertaining the meaning of the word, I feel like associating this plant with the main character of the novel - Rasa.

The love stories of three women - Dominyka, Saulė and Rasa - intertwine in the novel. Each of the women have had a painful love experience and they seem to compose an image of one woman, but they are separated by age and life experience.

Rasa's life journey depicted in the novel is full of search for just path of life and God. It extends to different lands: Warsaw, Paris, Jerusalem and America. However, the most vividly conveyed stages of the main character's life are the ones in the village near Lithuanian-Polish border and while studying in Vilnius. It is in one’s own land, one’s own home that a person discovers hope.

While reading Maranta the attention is drawn to the words – that are explain in the margins - in the dialect of Dzūkija region. They provide the novel with vibrancy and authenticity. Author creates a spirit of specific place; she highlights the temper of the characters. Maranta's language is very lyrical. Additional strength is given to this lyrical waving of narration by the topic of love, expressed with subtle metaphors and comparisons, "Now it was the song of man and woman, a very harmonious duo, when you manage to take all the notes - from the lowest to the highest..." (p. 210).

The novel is dominated by the second narrator's - "you" - voice that speaks through Rasa. Duplicating perspective of the "you" and "I" narrative is an interesting choice by the author. Sometimes the narrator’s words seem like Rasa's inner voice, "You came care on your own will. Then start admiring. Think not only of your little hell, but also of the one that was boiling here more than two thousand years ago" (p. 304). This variation of narrator’s voice allows us to see the main character, Rasa, from her own perspective.

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