Mindaugas Grigaitis 2008 12 23

In brief: The present-day Kaunas may be called a city which was a modern European capital once. A city where Laisvės Alley is dying. A city, where Bohemian life has died. A city where theatre is disappearing little by little.

These are the new stories about the painful losses of Kaunas identity, its endless melancholy and unreal hope that facelessness will end some day. Along with the last breaths of Bohemian people, “literature myths” about Kaunas vanish as well. It seems that writers creating in this city are forgetting about it too.

Colourful legends of Kęstutis Navakas and Gintaras Patackas’ adventures, which were part of Kaunas face, have been almost forgotten. Looking at fiction books published by Kaunas writers during the recent year, it is hard to find an author who would dedicate himself/herself to deeper reflections about the identity of this city.

Surely one may not demand that writers would identify themselves with their city. A creator is free and chooses sources of inspiration himself/herself. However, the fact that there is no sign of contemporary Kaunas in Kaunas writers’ books is a frustration to readers.

Two years ago the literature critic Audinga Perulaitytė called Kaunas writers “a special conglomeration of writing people inspired by mysterious sources” in her article “Dreaming Kaunas”. Speaking about the poetical tradition of Kaunas, she noticed that poetry of Kaunas creators “was always turned to itself, to the Lithuanian reality with Jonas Aistis clouds and sad songs”.

Perhaps phrases of the critic describe the tradition of Kaunas writers, who belong to the Lithuanian Writers’ Union, Kaunas Branch, precisely. For instance, Robertas Keturakis states that his biggest ideal is “artists who offered ideas and regulations during the years of national rebirth in the last decades of the 19th century, beginning of the 20th century stating that we would not have identity without our language”.

Aldona Ruseckaitė asserts that no contemporary creation is possible without classics: “Classics, around which everything rotates, becomes more distant and gets closer again. It is alive, it has a strong ground”. One may find many similar statements in the weekly Nemunas or daily Kauno Diena made by Kaunas writers. In their opinion, we are gradually melting in the chaotic post-modern daily life; therefore, they try to protect traditions.

One may not deny the importance of classic and tradition, but such ill affection to tradition is not healthy in the author’s opinion. Still, a question arises whether such criteria do not close contemporary literature and Kaunas in the yard of provincialism. May literature written according to these criteria may let us feel the contemporary life?

The ones expecting to find some contemporary identity of Kaunas become frustrated the most often. The biggest number of Kaunas writers are busy with the generation of eternal ideas, they do not even want to look at the daily life of the city “from their deep dimensions”.

Therefore, the author asks as a reader whether Kaunas is really so uninteresting that it is not worth writing about? Or perhaps writers do not recognise the reality in which their readers live, and, as a result, they attach to beautiful and well-known abstractions?

We have only legends about Kaunas in the book of Laimonas Inis “Giants and Dwarfs” created according to the canons of One Litas prize and the novel of Markas Zingeris "Season with a Dancer" spiced up by mythology artificially written during the recent years.

Perhaps reality is too banal and too dirty to writers for them to step down from the shining ivory towers. Of course, the creators' imagination is free and does not have to obey requirements of readers. Meanwhile, readers may only hope that they will discover themselves and their city without insights of “the talented conglomerate” while wandering along tenebrous streets of Kaunas.

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