Kristina Sabaliauskaitė (born 1974) is currently the most-widely read living Lithuanian fiction author with three number one bestsellers, massive print runs and such an avid reader admiration that the Vilnius Tourism Information Center has introduced guided tours following the paths of her historical novels, Silva Rerum and its sequel, Silva Rerum II. She comes from an academic background (has a PhD in History of Art) but also honed her quill for a number of years reporting as a foreign correspondent from London, hence her writing is a well-paced storytelling, visual, sensual, multilayered and dense with cultural references though at the same time engaging and spiked with sharp irony. An account of the life of a noble family in 17th-18th century Lithuania, both Silva Rerum novels have been praised by cultural historians and acclaimed by critics as “literary events” and “a new page in Lithuanian literature”.
Both became Lithuanian Book of the Year in 2009 and 2011. Among her other accolades is also a Saint Christopher – a municipal award for distinguished merits to Vilnius, for depiction of her native city in literature. Urban identity, memory, and history are reoccurring themes – whether she writes about the Baroque in the Silva Rerum novels or flits between lost Polish, Jewish or Soviet Vilnius, contemporary Paris, or London (where she is based) in her third book, a short story collection Danielius Dalba & Other Stories.
Silva Rerum (2008) / Silva Rerum II (2010)
Silva Rerum – or Latin for “forest of things”– was a family chronicle filled in by each passing generation, popular in 17th-18th century Lithuania and Poland. The novel, set in 1659-1667 and conceived as a magical documentary of Baroque life with the means of a sensual story leads the reader through the labyrinth of history amidst the ruins of war, religious struggles and urban decadence of 17th century Lithuania, after the Deluge – Muscovite and Cossack invasion in 1655. The story of the noble Narwoysz family and the coming of age of the twins, Kazimierz and Urszula, their lust for life and quest for God is featured against the background of cultural history: Cartesian dualism, the art of rhetorics, the history of law and of Vilnius University, and everyday life of nuns in a Bernardine convent.
Silva Rerum II is an account of the years 1707-1710, the Great Northern War, the Great Plague, the Great Famine, the lavish luxury and the deadly hunger, the inevitability of the fate and the power of an accident, and, of course, the lives of the next generation of the Narwoysz. The history of medicine and music and the predestination theory in philosophy are subjects featured in the sequel. A “memory puzzle,” it reveals the fates of the previous Narwoysz generation, though some of them are such that the hand which is to write them down into a Silva Rerum starts to tremble…