(With thanks to the Institue of Lithuanian Literature & Folklore and the Respublika)
Bibliography (major works)
Neprasidėjusi šventė (The holiday that has not begun), short stories, Vilnius: Vaga, 1976, 104 p.
Įsibrovėliai (The intruders), short stories, Vilnius: Vaga, 1982, 252 p.
Nubaustieji (The punished), short stories, Vilnius: Vaga, 1987, 231 p.
Vilniaus pokeris, novel, Vilnius: Vaga, 1989, 389 p.
in Latvian: Viļņas pokers, trans. by Talrids Rullis. Rīga: Preses nams, 1995, 446 p.
in English: Vilnius Poker, trans. by Elizabeth Novickas. Rochester, NY: Open Letter Press, 2009, 485 p. Reissued in paperback by Pica Pica Press, Flossmoor, IL, 2016, 438 p.
in Macedonian: „Покер во Вилнус", Antolog, 2013,
in French: Vilnius Poker, trans, by Margarita Le Borgne. Arles: Monsieur Toussaint Louverture, 2014.
in Belarussian: "Віленскі покер", trans. by Paŭliny Vituščanki. Vilnius: Logvino literatūros namai, 2018, 657 p.
in Polish: Wileński poker, trans. by Kamil Pecela. Wojnowice: KEW, 2019, 644 p.
Jauno žmogaus memuarai: keturiolikos laiškų romanas, novel, Vilnius: Vaga, 1991, 140 p.
in Finnish: Nuoren miehen muistelmat : romaani neljäntoista kirjeen muodossa, trans. by Ulla-Liisa Heino. Helsinki : Donelaitis-seura – Liettuan ystävät, 1995, 180 p.
in Polish: Wspomnienia młodego człowieka : powieść w czternastu listach, trans. by Joanna Tabor. Warszawa: Ex Libris, 2002, 195 p.
in English: Memoirs of a Life Cut Short, trans. by Jadye Will. Glasgow: Vagabond Voices, 2018, 244 p.
Vilniaus džiazas (Vilnius jazz), novel, Vilnius: Vaga, 1993, 383 p.
Nemirtingumas. Rekonstrukcijos bandymas (Immortality. An attempt at a reconstruction), biography of Vitas Lingys, Kaunas: Kopa, 1994, 60 p.
Paskutinioji žemės žmonių karta (The last generation of people on earth), novel, Vilnius: Vaga, 1995, 222 p.
Taikos balandis (The dove of peace), short stories, Vilnius: Alma littera, 1995, 146 p.
in German: Friedenstaube: sieben Wilnaer Geschichten, stories, trans. by Klaus Berthel. Oberhausen: Athena 2001, 117 p.
Prarastų godų kvartetas (A quartet of lost daydreams), novel, Vilnius: Tyto alba, 1997, 228 p.
Septyni savižudybių būdai (Seven means of suicide), novel, Vilnius: Tyto alba, 1999, 343 p.
Sun–Tzu gyvenimas šventame Vlniaus mieste, novel, Vilnius: Tyto alba, 2002, 290 p.
in English: Sun-Tzu's Life in the Holy City of Vilnius, trans. by Elizabeth Novickas. Flossmoor, IL: Pica Pica Press, 2019, 271 p.
Other texts in English:
"Handless" and "A Report on Ghosts" in: Come into My Time: Lithuania in Prose Fiction, 1970-90, ed. Violeta Kelertas. Urbana: University of Illinois, 1992, 251 p.
“A literary bomb”
Žygintas Kačanauskas, a reporter for the newspaper Respublika, spoke with the writer Ričardas Gavelis. Published in the Nov. 25, 1989 edition of Respublika, on page 4.
Weren’t you afraid to write such a drastic novel during that other absurd reality, where not just the novel, but you, too, could have disappeared without a trace?
It was terrible, no doubt about it. With sleepless nights and other consequences. I hid the text in parts. Even now there are people guarding the novel’s manuscript. I should thank them publicly, but it’s probably too soon... I didn’t worry about myself. I said in complete sincerity, better I’d be lost, than the manuscript. It was hard to find people who could take it. I couldn’t give it to friends I saw often—they would be the first to be searched. I handed over the novel in a locked briefcase, so it couldn’t be read and mentioned to someone else. It was better they didn’t know what the book was about. As far as I know, our beloved institution never did suspect I could write a novel like that.
Wasn’t it tough to take on a huge work that couldn’t ever, back then during that stifling reality, see the light of day?
Approximately ten years ago I somehow managed to spiritually jump out of that waste pit, and wrote this thing in complete freedom, not thinking of what I would do with it later. There was only one alternative then: photograph it and send it out of the country. But I had no connections, so there was no chance of that.
There is a brutal, all-destructive force in the novel—THEY. At first it seems it’s a secret service; later, representatives of the highest levels of government; in the end, THEY appear to exist in all political systems at all times. What is it?
Clearly THEY is a broader concept than a secret service or government. THEY are a force within people that is responsible for the formation of totalitarian systems. Before starting to write I reached the conclusion that this senseless system cannot be explained by the intellect. Indeed, at times THEY confine themselves to the finest building in Vilnius, and sometimes expand to distant historical times.
I think one of your novel’s strengths is it reveals that character development within an illogical system cannot have a critical significance. A soulless system consumes everyone. But if that is true, then we have no way out?
I don’t want to be completely pessimistic, but that it is going to be hopelessly difficult should be obvious to any thinking person. If all that was required was to change names, it would be too easy. People need to be reborn. The Lithuanians still have a chance, but some of our neighboring nations probably not. The theory of population genetics asserts that if three generations in a row are deformed, the national genetic fund is irreparably damaged. We’ve had only two deformed generations, so we still have a chance of correction.
Can the soulless people you described have a true national feeling, can they sense the nation’s spirit?
If at first we play at imitating national feelings, perhaps they will come true.
The novel excessively accents Vilnius’s grotesqueness, which is characteristic of any large city.
Vilnius is a metaphor. It could be any large city destroyed by the soullessness of totalitarianism.
There’s no doubt there will be a lot of objections on account of the erotism.
We’re living at the end of the twentieth century—it’s time to get used to it. Erotism has been a basic object of art in all cultures and civilizations because it it’s one of the essential characteristics separating man from other animals. Erotism is forbidden only in totalitarian systems where everything human is expelled. Clearly, we have not yet gotten to the stage of gentle erotism, so the brutal, perverse erotism that appears in a soulless life could shock a lot of people. But I could not play up to predominant opinions. I wrote the things I needed to write.
Aren’t you afraid that people will assert the novel will corrupt the morals of young people, and make efforts to prohibit it?
It would be very funny, but I don’t think anyone would doubt that prohibition has a different reason. This novel is a study in evil, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t good in it. Perhaps in the future I’ll write lighter things. I won’t descend into evil hells like that anymore, my nerves can’t take it.
Thank you for the conversation.
Translated by Elizabeth Novickas