Vilnius Poker by Ričardas Gavelis
An assemblage of troubled grotesques struggle to retain identity and humanity in an alternately menacing and mysterious Vilnius, the Lithuanian capital, under Soviet rule in the 1970s and 1980s. The late Gavelis’s first translation into English centers on Vytautas Vargalys, a semijustifiably paranoid labor camp survivor who works at a library no one visits while he desperately investigates the Them or They responsible for dehumanizing and killing the humans around him, including his wife, Irena; his genius friend, Gedis; and the young siren, Lolita. Meanwhile, failed intellectual Martynas chronicles Vargalys’s struggle and the city’s mysterious energy in his mlog, library worker Stefanija Monkeviciute dwells on her wavering faith and personal humiliations, and the city itself speaks in the voice of a dog, claiming that Vilnius can’t distinguish dreams from reality. Wrought—and fraught—with symbolism and ennui, the oppressive internal monologues of the characters and the city show the intense importance and equal absurdity of life.
About the Author:
Ričardas Gavelis was a prose writer and playwright. He published his first book—a collection of short stories entitled The Celebration That Has Not Begun—in 1976 and went on to write six novels, three collections of stories, and several plays before passing away in 2002. His other novels include Seven Ways to Commit Suicide, The Last Generation of People on Earth, and The Life of Sun-Tzu in the Sacred City of Vilnius. This is his first novel to be published in English.