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by Pauls Bankovskis (trans. Ieva Lešinska)
Pages: 196 (approx.)
Publication: 26 September 2017
As the First World War comes to an end, chaos takes of much of Europe and even the victors sense that the old certainties have been lost in the massacre. In Latvia it appears that two centuries of Russian rule are coming to an end, but other powers and destabilising factors persist. Pauls Bankovskis’s novel examining this most important of years in his country’s history reveals how a new republic emerged from disorder and chance, gradually but also erratically. Painstaking in his research, he even walked himself the full length of the escape route to Finland taken by his protagonist. This is the story of a year and its far from unified people.
Two different Latvias, almost a century apart, one looking uncertainly to the future and the other uncomprehendingly to the past, inhabit very different eras and use each other to inform their own actions.
From the Annual Latvian Literature Award page:
“Two Latvians, two different periods, with almost a century between them. One of them, in the autumn of 1917, is not entirely sure whether it is worth it for Latvians to attempt and establish their own country. There is still time until November 18th, and his thoughts on it could change, if one could give him an answer to the question “Why?” The second comes upon this same question today. That which seemed already self-evident to many in 1918 suddenly doesn’t seem that way anymore. This is a story about an improbable encounter between these two characters.”
Memoirs of a Life Cut Short
by Ričardas Gavelis (trans. Jayde Will)
Pages: 190 (approx.)
Publication: 29 September 2017
Memoirs of a Life Cut Short is a damning document to the falsity of a system that slowly crushed everyone in its wake. It is a Bildungsroman for the Homo Sovieticus: the reader sees the development of a regular, ordinary person in Soviet conditions who in one way or another becomes part of the system, and soon realises that it is almost impossible to change it or extract oneself from it.
In fourteen letters from beyond the grave to his friend and teacher Tomas Kelertas, protagonist Leonas Ciparis talks about his life from his earliest days up until his last; his rise from lowly beginnings to the upper echelon of the Communist Party illustrating the possibilities of the new Soviet person.
The novel brilliantly illustrates an aspect of Lithuanian society that is understood to exist, but is rarely talked about openly. On a broader scale, the reader is helped to understand the effects of totalitarian systems on the human psyche through the lens of Lithuanians living under Soviet rule.
Gavelis is an internationally acclaimed writer, with his seminal work Vilnius Poker translated into English in 2009, as well as into numerous other languages, most recently French.
I Loved a German
by A.H. Tammsaare (transl. Chris Moseley)
Pages: 260 (approx.)
Publication: 26 October 2017
From the Estonian Literature Centre:
“What happens when you think you have fallen in love with a woman, but it turns out that you love her grandfather instead?
“A. H. Tammsaare’s I Loved a German is a gripping love story, in which the classic love triangle takes a very untraditional form. The plot is centered around a young Estonian university student who falls in love with a young Baltic German woman. The Baltic Germans have lost their former aristocratic position in society since Estonia declared its independence. The young German earns her keep as a tutor for an Estonian family, and is not economically well-off. The young man, Oskar, starts courting the girl frivolously, but then falls head-over-heels in love with her.
“Before long, the prejudice that an Estonian and a Baltic German are of socially unequal standings starts to stalk the couple. When Oskar goes to ask Erika’s grandfather — a former manor lord — for the girl’s hand, the meeting leaves a deep impression on his soul. All of a sudden, Oskar finds himself wondering if perhaps he doesn’t love the woman in Erika, but rather her grandfather; meaning, her noble descent. Perhaps the “slave’s blood” of farmhands who had been in the service of Baltic Germans for centuries is manifested in his love, instead?
“Does love depend solely upon the emotions of two young individuals, or are their origins, their social and cultural background actually the deciding factor?”
by Antanas Škėma (transl. Karla Gruodis)
Pages: 150 (approx.)
Publication: 26 October 2017
White Shroud (Balta drobulė, 1958) is considered by many as the most important work of modernist fiction in Lithuanian. Drawing heavily on the author’s own refugee and immigrant experience, this psychological, stream-of-consciousness work tells the story of an émigré poet working as an elevator operator in a large New York hotel during the mid-1950s. Using multiple narrative voices and streams, the novel moves through sharply contrasting settings and stages in the narrator’s life in Lithuania before and during World War II, returning always to New York and the recent immigrant’s struggle to adapt to a completely different, and indifferent, modern world. Strong characters and evocative utterances convey how historical context shapes language and consciousness, breaking down any stable sense of self.
As in other major modernist works, Skėma uses language and allusion to destabilise. Narrative, voice and language shift continuously, capturing the anti-hero’s psychological and cultural disorientation — the complexity of experience in a modern world where, in Yeats’ words, “the centre cannot hold.” Like the author’s, Garšva’s frame of reference is vast — quotes from French arias, Kafka and American culture collide with visceral memories of archaic Lithuanian folk song. Garšva’s use of poignant and comical émigré slang in his interactions captures the ironies and absurdities of the immigrant’s situation. By the end of the novel, further grammatical and linguistic disarray mirrors the final unravelling of Garšva’s mind as he descends into madness.
Like all powerful fiction, this novel draws the reader into an intimate, culturally and historically specific world to explore universal human themes of selfhood, alienation, creativity and cultural difference. This English translation promises to appeal to various audiences: readers of modernist and world literature, scholars of Baltic literature and refugee studies, and members of the Lithuanian diaspora unable to access this novel in Lithuanian. Written from the perspective of a newcomer to an Anglophone country, White Shroud encourages readers to better understand the complexities of immigrant life.
by Heather Richardson
Pages: 300 (approx.)
Publication: 26 October 2017 (Available September 2017)
This is a story of sex, drugs and blasphemy in late seventeenth-century Edinburgh experienced through four viewpoints over fifteen years: Dr Robert Carruth, his wife Isobel, and university students Mungo Craig and Thomas Aikenhead.
After participating in the particularly gruesome autopsy of a pregnant prisoner, Robert is unable to consummate his marriage to Isobel. He buries himself in work, and his overzealousness contributes to the demise of a down-at-heel apothecary named James Aikenhead. Fifteen years pass and the apothecary’s son, Thomas, appears at the Carruths’ door seeking recompense for his father’s death. At his side is Mungo Craig, a cunning poet with dubious loyalties. The two insinuate their way into Robert and Isobel’s life, freshly exposing old fault lines in the Carruths’ marriage and subjecting them to dangerous new pressure.
“With an exquisite and faultless play of historical language, we witness the most visceral portrayals of early medical practices and a delicately drawn marriage, in which the fear of being different is wonderfully distilled. The childhood of Thomas Aikenhead, the last executed blasphemer in Britain, is also brilliantly created, along with the crucial betrayals that caused his downfall. This novel speaks loudly to our present condition.” – Derek Neale
by David Widgery
Pages: 320 (approx.)
Publication: 26 October 2017
Against Miserabilism is a love letter, out of the past, to a new generation of radicals. It’s a collection of articles by David Widgery, who, in addition to working as a full-time medical doctor in London’s East End, wrote prolifically on matters of political and cultural importance from the 1960s till the time of his death in 1992. Though his articles are decades old his commentary on healthcare, black rights, feminism and other civil rights remains relevant. His unique viewpoint as a doctor and a politically active Marxist informs all of his writings.
“Socialists are people too. Their lives are not all about ‘politics’. Indeed the strength of Widgery’s writings is to show how it is only the lived experience of people’s lives that makes their politics real. There are only a handful of revolutionary socialists who have ever been able to write convincingly about popular music, about suffering and dying – and indeed self-critically about the successes and failures of the socialist movement itself. It is astonishing to read pieces written 30/40 years ago that are so prescient. This collection is a living memorial to and by one of the finest writers and critics ever produced by the revolutionary left.” – Stuart Weir, former editor of the New Statesman (1987-91); founder of the democratic movement Charter 88
Mind over Matter
by Chris Dolan
Publication: November/December 2017
Dolan’s third instalment in his popular Maddy Shannon series (Potter’s Field, Lies of the Land) sees Maddy on her first assignment with the Scottish Procurator Fiscal’s Fatalities Investigation Unit, in which she investigates the death of an unidentified woman found in a West End Glasgow flat.
An aspect of the investigation brings Maddy face to face, for the first time, with an actual human being connected to Petrus Inc., the multinational petrochemical company she has been chasing for years. The unidentified victim turns out to be a ticking time bomb, putting Maddy Shannon in mortal danger.
As she works to solve the case Maddy struggles to overcome her own personal issues: her long-distance relationship with a New York police officer flounders at the same time that she is rebuilding her relationship with her estranged father, who has moved back to Glasgow after twenty years abroad.