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Undinė Radzevičiūtė


Undinė Radzevičiūtė (born 1967) is the most un-Lithuanian of Lithuanian writers. She does not mix with the literary world, and on the cover of her first book she wrote a piece openly criticising the Lithuanian language and anything that has traditionally been considered of value of Lithuanian literature. However, she has much to offer for her iconoclastic antics. She was among the first to suggest a broader, more cosmopolitan definition of national identity, one that includes neighbouring nations, which over history have had much cultural and genetic influence, even though she does not really bother with definitions. Instead, she writes about things as they are: her language is peppered with foreign words and Russian swearwords. An expert at brevity and black humour, she does not even need to break free of the tradition of Lithuanian literature: she clearly never belonged there in the first place. The novel Žuvys ir drakonai (Fishes and Dragons) was published in Germany in 2017; it is currently being translated into English; and there are plans to translate it into Polish, Bulgarian, Italian, Latvian, Estonian, Hungarian and Spanish by 2019.

Žuvys ir drakonai (Fishes and Dragons). Vilnius: Baltos lankos, 2013. – 227

Radzevičiūtė’s fourth book steadily remains the favourite, even though she has written two more novels after this. The plot follows two stories. An 18th century Jesuit arrives in China, expecting to do missionary work. However, he feels more and more frustrated, as the Chinese culture, in his view, is like a sponge that absorbs everything but doesn’t change even a little itself. In the present day, in an unknown city a matriarchal family of grandmother, mother and two daughters, is spying on a Chinese restaurant out of their apartment window. While some have felt that the book is too disconnected, fragmented and difficult to put together into a whole, it still remains both an entertaining and a thoughtful read. The messy contact between different civilizations is obviously an important theme, but there’s more to the book than that: it is also a book about family and home, about vocation and freedom.

Selected translations

English: Fishes and Dragons: excerpt from the novel. In: The Vilnius Review, Vilnius, 2014 (33)

There will be no Baden Baden; Walter Schultz (short stories). In: The Vilnius Review, Vilnius, 2011 (29)

German: Fische und Drachen. Salzburg-Wien: Residenz Verlag, 2017

Croatian: Excerpts from the books Fishes and Dragons and There will be no Baden Baden . In: Revija malih književnoti. Zagreb: Kulturtreger, 2015

Estonian: Ei mingit Baden – Badenit. Tallinn: Loomingu raamatukogu, 2-3, 2014

Russian: Вальтер Шульц (short story). In: Иностранная литература, Москва, 2015 (3)

Франкбург (novel). In: Дружба народов, Москва, 2012 (07)

Strekaza (novel). In: Дружба народов, Москва, 2005 (12)