Lithuanian Culture Institute
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Lithuanian Culture Institute

In 2020, the Lithuanian Culture Institute funded a record number of new translations. This year, 135 thousand euros have been distributed for 46 translations of books and 35 excerpts into foreign languages ​​- 75 thousand in the Spring and 60 thousand at the end of October.

In the autumn, funding was offered to 20 book translations into Estonian, Hebrew, Spanish, Korean, Croatian, Latvian, Polish, Russian, Slovenian, Finnish, Ukrainian and German. Among the literary works in translation are novels by Daina Opolskaitė, Sigitas Parulskis, Kristina Sabaliauskaitė and Alvydas Šlepikas, poetry by Antanas A. Jonynas and Marius Burokas and books for children and youth by Jurga Vilė and Lina Itagaki, and Monika Vaicenavičienė.

“This year, not only did we fund the largest number of translations in the entire history of our Translation Grant Programme, but foreign publishers also submitted more applications than usual. We see this as a result of the Institute’s consistent and continuous work, uninterrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, with literary translators and publishers. Although book fairs around the world were cancelled this year and the most important literary festivals were hit hard, the Institute sought and found new, virtual ways to interest foreign publishers in Lithuanian literature,” says Aušrinė Žilinskienė, Director of the Institute.

Foreign publishers are interested in acclaimed works by Lithuanian authors

Foreign publishers choose to publish works by Lithuanian authors that have received readers’ and critics’ recognition in other countries. The Spanish-speaking world will soon be able to open Alvydas Šlepikas’ novel Mano vardas Marytė (published in English under the title of In the Shadow of Wolves). This will be the 8th translation of this novel funded by the Lithuanian Culture Institute. The novel is translated into Spanish by Margarita Santos Cuesta and published by Tusquetes editores, the publishing house whose catalogue features titles by Gabriel García Márquez, Julio Cortázar and Haruki Murakami.

One of the most popular Estonian publishers, Varrak, will present to its readers Kristina Sabaliauskaitė’s new novel Petro imperatorė (Peter’s Empress), translated by Tiina Kattel. The translation of this historical novel into Latvian, financed by the Lithuanian Culture Institute, became one of the best-selling books in Latvia in the first week after its release.

International recognition is significant for the success of Lithuanian authors. Daina Opolskaitė’s collection of short stories Dienų piramidės (Pyramids of Days), which received the European Union Prize for Literature, attracted the attention of the Croatian publishing house Sandorf and encouraged it to look for a translator. Julija Gulbinovič, who has translated this book, believes that short stories by Opolskaitė should be popular in Croatia. “The first comments I heard from Croatian readers were that they found the texts somewhat dark, gothic, northern. I think that these epithets can attract lovers of just such literature, perhaps fans of Scandinavian literature or readers interested in the literatures of smaller, less represented countries, or perhaps those who had been waiting to read specifically Lithuanian literature,” says the translator, who was working on the book in the summer as part of the Translators’ Residence in Vilnius funded by the Institute.

Fans of Lithuanian prose in Latvia will get the opportunity to read Sigitas Parulskis’ Tamsa ir partneriai (Darkness and Partners), and in Ukraine, Dalia Staponkutė’s book Iš dviejų renkuosi trečią. Mano mažoji odeisėja (I Choose the Third of Two. My Little Odyssey) and a spy novel Provisionally Yours by Antanas Šileika, who lives and writes in Canada. The book Devilspel by one of the most famous contemporary Jewish writers, Grigory Kanovich, which received great reviews in the UK, will be published in Israel. The Finnish publishing house Kirjallisuus- ja kulttuuriyhdistys Särö ry (Särö) is preparing a special issue of the magazine dedicated to Lithuanian culture and literature.

As many as two Lithuanian poetry books to be published in Poland

Poetry by not one but two Lithuanian poets – Antanas A. Jonynas and Marius Burokas – will be published in Polish. Both poets’ books are being translated by two particularly experienced Polish translators: Agnieszka Emilia Rembiałkowska is working on Marius Burokas’ poems, and A. A. Jonynas’ poetry is being translated by one of the most famous Polish translators, poet, essayist and historian of ideas Adam Pomorski.

Pomorski admires A.A. Jonynas’ style and creative diapason. “Antanas A. Jonynas is a poet who, in his unique poetic language, combines the modernly restrained and probably quintessentially Lithuanian way of thinking, seeing and feeling the world with a deeply engrained tradition of European, first and foremost, Germanophone and French modernist poetry. That German Romanesque tradition was and continues to be a source of inspiration for the poet and for contemporary German poetry that he is so well acquainted with. Still, the possibilities of Jonynas’ own style are so great that he rises above that tradition. I would even say that I do not know another poet in contemporary European poetry who has such a wide range of voice,” says Pomorski, who believes that A. A. Jonynas’ poetry will be a stylistic novelty for Polish readers. “Poland is dominated by post-modernist American and English poetics that are rather minimalistic than baroque in style, adapted to the Polish language by translators. Jonynas hits that note perfectly, which I believe will resound even stronger in Poland as he draws new trajectories for exploration.”

Lithuanian poetry will also be presented to German readers by the German publishing house KLAK Verlag. The poetry anthology compiled by the literary translator Markus Roduner will include verse by Mindaugas Nastaravičius, Vaiva Grainytė, Lina Buividavičiūtė, Aušra Kaziliūnaitė, Nerijus Cibulskas, Tomas Petrulis, Ramunė Brundzaitė, Ernestas Noreika, Ieva Toleikytė, Simonas Bernotas, Greta Ambrazaitė, Laura Kromalcaitė and Dovydas Grajauskas. KLAK Verlag has previously published works by Valdas Papievis, Eugenijus Ališanka and Mikalojus Vilutis. The Lithuanian Culture Institute began collaborating with this publishing house in preparation for presenting Lithuania at the Leipzig Book Fair in 2017.

Siberian Haiku is conquering translators and the world

The graphic novel Siberian Haiku by Jurga Vilė and Lina Itagaki has become one of the most popular books for children and youth by Lithuanian authors. This time, the funding was provided for three translations at the same time: Tiina Kattel is translating the book into Estonian, Aleksandra Vasilkova into Russian, and Beatričė Beliavciv into Ukrainian. Another six translations of this graphic novel were funded by the Institute in previous years. It has already been published in France, Italy, the United Kingdom, Germany and Latvia, and is currently being translated into Romanian.

Aleksandra Vasilkova, who is translating Siberian Haiku into Russian, says that she wanted to translate the book the moment she held it in her hands. “I even can’t say that it was me who chose to translate Siberian Haiku – as soon as began reading it, absorbing both the words and the illustrations, I immediately realised that I want to translate this story, real and fantastic at the same time. Such are often the memories of children.” The translator believes that the book will attract the attention of Russian readers. In Russia, “few people know about this part of our past, so there should be a lot of interest. I also don’t think that anyone could be offended because the authors are telling the story – if I was to completely simplify it – about a bad state and good people,” the translator Aleksandra Vasilkova shares her thoughts about soon-to-be-published in Russian Siberian Haiku. Earlier this autumn, Vasilkova presented to Russian readers her translation of Jurga Ivanauskaitė’s The Witch and the Rain.

One of the authors of Siberian Haiku, the writer Jurga Vilė, says that every translation of the book is quite a miracle, but the latest translations into the languages ​​of neighbouring countries are particularly precious to her due to shared experiences. “I am very happy about Siberian haiku now available in Latvian because our countries lived through similar experiences, the past unites us. It also unites us with other neighbours: Estonians, Ukrainians, Poles. The translation into Russian is like a dream come true, the greatest reward, bearing in mind that in my story, I wanted to convey a common human experience, as opposed to dividing people into “us” and “them”, to respectfully touch on that difficult time and to express gratitude. Just as my grandmother was grateful to the kind people she met in Siberia who helped her survive.”

Next year, Latvian children will also be able to read Monika Vaicenavičienė’s unique discovery book Kas yra upė? (What is a river?). The story of secret postmen Emilio laiškas (Emilis’ Letter) by Ignė Zarembaitė and Greta Liekytė will be published in Ukraine, and Baubaimė by Benas Berantas translated by Klemen Pisko will be published in Slovenia. The Lithuanian Culture Institute has previously funded the translation of the latter into Ukrainian.

Literature reflecting the Lithuanian way of seeing and thinking the world

Russian publishing house Indrik Publishing will bring forth the Lithuanian mythology study In Search of the Nation’s Memory by the world-renowned semiotician Algirdas Julius Greimas, and a translation of Leonidas Donskis’ New York-published study Modernity in Crisis: A Dialogue on the Culture of Belonging will soon be published in Ukrainian.

The translation into Korean of a book on contemporary Lithuanian theatre compiled by Ramunė Marcinkevičiūtė and Ramunė Balevičiūtė also secured funding.

The Translation Grant Programme was established in 2001. Since 2010, this programme has been implemented by the Lithuanian Culture Institute. Over the twenty years, the programme has funded translations of 397 books by Lithuanian authors into 35 languages.