Lithuania Literature - From Independence to the Post-Soviet Era

Lithuania Literature – From Independence to the Post-Soviet Era


The writers of the older generation continued to deal with the themes of the national tradition; the young people were instead concerned with making contact with world literature and getting out of the narrow limits in which they had been forced to operate until then. Two decades of independent life served to orient Lithuanian literature towards Europe: the focus was on Romance and Anglo-American literatures; the driving force of cultural ferments was the ‘Vytautas the Great’ University of Kaunas (the capital Vilnius being controlled by Polish troops). The Lithuanian ambassador to Moscow J. Baltrušaitis was a well-known Symbolist poet, who wrote in Russian and Lithuanian; in the Lithuanian embassy in Paris worked OV de Lithuania Miłosz, poet in the French language. In this period appeared the fundamental works of V. Mykolaitis-Putinas, lyricist with pessimistic tendencies and author of the novel Altorių šešėly (“In the shadow of the altars”, 1933), and of V. Krėvė Mickevičius, who knew how to give life to a original synthesis of realistic, mysterious and legendary elements. Other authors were: the symbolist poet F. Kirša, B. Sruogà, pantheist mystical poet and author of a famous novel, Dievų miškas (“The Wood of the Gods”, 1957) set in the German concentration camp of Stutthof. K. Binkis was the animator of the Futurist group of the so-called Quattroventists; another literary current was Trečias frontas(“The third front”), of communist tendency, of which the main exponent was K. Boruta, author of the novels Baltaragio malūnas (” The mill of Baltaragis”, 1945), Mediniai stebuklai (“The wooden miracles”, 1938). After the 1930s many other authors took on a clearer physiognomy who shortly afterwards continued their work in emigration: B. Brazdžionis, rich in biblical and prophetic accents; A. Miškinis, cantor of national and rural themes re-proposed in the form of modern popular daĩnos ; J. Aistis (pseudonym of the writer J. Kossu-Aleksandravičius). Also: K. Inčiūra, author of prose and theater, V. Sirijos Gira and especially S. Nėris, spokesperson for the new female lyric; P. Cvirka and A. Venclova, united by communist ideology, concentrated on social issues. For Lithuania 1998, please check

Meanwhile, by the early 1940s the situation had precipitated and for many intellectuals a period of voluntary exile began, but literary activity did not stop in the refugee camps thanks to small publishing houses such as Tėvynė (“Homeland”). Emblematic of this period was the current of ‘terrestrial’ poets (V. Mačernis, A. Nyka-Niliūnas, K. Bradūnas, H. Nagys, J. Kėkštas) which inaugurated the existentialist line of modern Lithuanian poetry in the 1920s and 1930s. The original authors of the emigration were the poets S. Santvaras and Lithuania Sutema, A. Škėma, author of the novel Balta drobulė (“The white hood”, 1958). Among those who took refuge in France remember J. Baltrušaitis junior, son of the poet, original art historian, and the famous semiologist and scholar of Baltic mythology AJ Greimas ; in Germany the philosopher and theologian A. Maceinà worked for decades. Meanwhile, in Soviet law there was a radical change in literary orientations in the sense of ‘socialist realism’. Successful narrative works are due to I. Simonaitytė, J. Paukštelis, but authors loyal to the ždanovian assumptions such as A. Gudaitis-Guzevičius, J. Dovydaitis, academician and essayist K. Korsakas often acquired fame. In the early 1960s the poet E. Mieželaitis met with critical acclaim for the opera Žmogùs(“Man”, 1962), awarded the Lenin Prize; J. Baltušis and J. Marcinkevičius gave the best in fiction. It is also worth mentioning R. Lankauskas, M. Sluckis, J. Mikelinskas, V. Petkevičius, J. Avyžius ; the dramaturgy records a trilogy by J. Marcinkevičius centered on historical subjects. In the 1980s the narrative was mainly lyric-psychological, lyric-ironic, symbolic-allegorical; among the authors of this genre there are J. Aputis, R. Granauskas, B. Baltrušaitytė, S. Šaltenis, D. Mušinskas, B. Radzevičius, of which the unfinished Priešaušrio vieškeliai remains(“The streets before dawn”, posthumously, 1985). In the poetic field V. Bložė, J. Juškaitis and the younger J. Strielkūnas, S. Gedà, G. Patackas, K. Platelis stand out; poet is also M. Martinaitis, in whose work references to folklore are frequent. Since 1977 the poet, essayist and translator T. Venclova has been active in American emigration.


Lithuanian is an Indo-European language belonging to the Baltic group, within which it differs for its conservative character. Lithuanian dialects are divided into two groups: High-Lithuanian and Low-Lithuanian, also called Gemaitic. The first group appears more conservative in vocalism (high-Lithuanian sėdė´ti «to be seated», opposite the low-Lithuanian siėdiėti, cf. Lat. To sit); the second in consonantism (preservation of the tj and dj palatalized links in Upper Lithuanian in č and dž). The oldest documents date back to the 16th century.

Lithuania Literature - From Independence to the Post-Soviet Era