Valdas Papievis (born 1962) has been living in Paris since 1992 but still remains an important presence in Lithuanian literary life and an active member of the Lithuanian expat community in France. He has written four novels and two books of short fiction, and has become a particular favourite with the Lithuanian reading public since his novel Eiti (To Go, 2010) was elected Book of the Year. One might distinguish two main factors that shape his work. One is Paris – or possibly French culture more broadly – its elegance, sophistication and mannerisms; and the other is the life of an expat, the ‘homelessness’ of it, the superficiality of relationships, even loneliness and isolation. He is often praised for the beauty of his prose.
Odilė, arba Oro uostų vienatvė (Odile, or the Loneliness of Airports). Vilnius: Alma littera, 2015. – 312 p.
Odilė is ninety years old. She has lived in Paris for most of her life, and her life has been mostly charming and fulfilling, but still sometimes disappointing. In her old age, she has a companion – the nameless narrator of the novel – who lives with her, takes her on long walks, and listens to her stories and memories. It is a book about old age, about facing it gracefully and with as little bitterness as possible. But it is also a book about loneliness, about keeping distances, respecting boundaries. The title is a beautiful metaphor – it means “The Loneliness of Airports”. There are hardly any airports in the story itself. Instead, it describes the relationship between Odilė and her companion – like two strangers, both waiting for the next leg of their journey, and passing the time with pleasant, polite conversation.