Jurga Ivanauskaite. She died a year ago, in February 17, , aged 45, after a long battle against cancer. Jurga Ivanauskaite is a unique figure in contemporary literature in the Baltic states. In her final years, after a great deal of searching and wandering, she achieved a kind of peace with her home country that brought her life and work to an oddly natural conclusion. Her paintings and photographs, which like her books underwent a complete transformation after her travels in India and Tibet in the mids, always draw crowds when exhibited.
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Jurga Ivanauskaite. She died a year ago, in February 17, , aged 45, after a long battle against cancer. Jurga Ivanauskaite is a unique figure in contemporary literature in the Baltic states.
In her final years, after a great deal of searching and wandering, she achieved a kind of peace with her home country that brought her life and work to an oddly natural conclusion. Her paintings and photographs, which like her books underwent a complete transformation after her travels in India and Tibet in the mids, always draw crowds when exhibited. They have been used to illustrate the covers of her books, including her three remarkable and highly personal works of non-fiction on Tibetan life and religion, Istremtas Tibetas Tibet in Exile, , Kelione i Sambala Journey to Shambhala, and Prarasta Pazadetoji zeme Lost Promised Land, They circulated widely among young people who had previously shown little interest in the turgid prose and poetry allowed through Glavlit, the Soviet literary watchdog.
A book of short stories, Pakalnuciu metai The Year of the Lilies of the Valley, and debut novel Menulio vaikai Chil dren of the Moon, were reviewed with heavy irony, but were immediate popular successes. In her case, this meant glamorizing Western attitudes, albeit in a rather naive, Gorbachev-era way. Her youthful characters played Beatles songs, enthused about surrealist painters, contemplated the mysticism of Castaneda, and were frequently misunderstood. That a young woman could be a literary rebel was unheard of in Lithuania.
Many critics ignored her books, as they did with anything they disapproved of. They also made way for the literary sensation of the decade, Vilniaus Pokeris Vilnius Poker, by Ricardas Gavelis.
He, Ivanauskaite and other writers pushed the boundaries of what was acceptable, so that Lithuanian literature was able to emerge from the confines of Soviet censorship into the post-Soviet world of the s. Subsidized, ideological writing was suddenly replaced by a commercial style that was a wild mix of inventive fantasy and neurotic national self-obsession.
Another sensation was to follow. A love story told by three women—a modern-day bohemian outsider, a medieval witch and Mary Magdalene—it was immediately condemned in official circles as common pornography.
The book quickly sold out, as 20, copies were bought in two weeks. Having popularized Western attitudes, Ivanauskaite now turned her attention to in troducing Tibet to Lithuania. Until her Tibetan trilogy, no books on Tibet had been available in Lithuanian.
It has a personal foreword by the Dalai Lama, whose visit to Lithuania in Ivanauskaite helped to arrange. The book is beautifully written. Lithuania was the only Soviet republic with a majority Catholic population, and priests were dealt with particularly severely.
In Kelione i Sambala, Ivanauskaite describes her personal experiences and her experiments with Buddhist spiritual practices, both joyful and laborious. Prarasta Pazadetoji zeme recounts a second journey, this time into occupied Tibet. For some time before her departure in June , her name had been on a Chinese blacklist as the leader of a Tibet support group in Lithuania.
But she recalled on her return the proverb that God will punish the man whose greatest wish He fulfills. In Placebas Placebo, , Jurga finally wrested herself away from Tibet to create a masterful satirical novel set in Vilnius. A journalist investigating the murder of a psychic discovers that the state authorities are not only behind the killing but also brainwashing the population using the media as part of a vast social experiment.
The novel is about a woman in a midlife crisis, feeling self-piteous about her failed marriage, who quite by accident finds herself taking care of several victims of human trafficking and prostitution, a subject that Ivanauskaite became deeply involved in during the course of her research. The protagonist is partly based on the author herself, a very private individual who adopts a strong sense of public responsibility.
This became an urgent theme for Ivanauskaite in the last year of her life once that the severe pains she had been experiencing in her legs were found to be the result of soft tissue sarcomas. Doctors told her in November that she had only two months to live. She had already begun to explore Catholicism in greater depth as part of her ongoing spiritual quest, and she enjoyed long discussions with local religious figures such as Tolstoyan ascetic Father Stanislovas, Monsignor Vasiliauskas and Franciscan priest Julius Sasnauskas.
A comment by the Dalai Lama himself, that in trying to find faith one does not have to look very far, propelled her even further in this direction. She announced that part of the reason she had found so much happiness during this period was that she had found God. Jurga always saw herself as working towards her best book. A second collection of poetry, this time dramatically existential, Ode dziaugsmui Ode to Joy, , was published on the day of her funeral.
She also left an uncompleted book of essays. This unfinished work may at some point be published. Perhaps it is only a matter of time before the work of this most colorful and intriguing of Lithuanian authors is fully appreciated by an international audience.
They are united by the humanistic attitudes characteristic of mature personalities, a longing for wider spaces, and the fact that they spent important periods of their lives outside Lithuania and were able to look more deeply — from outside, as it were — at themselves and at the strong points of the culture of their native country as well as its problematic aspects. The way to the East of this artist, an intellectual who grew up in a family of intellectuals, and her search for a place in the world are full of many experiences, both outer and inner, that have given her work a special authenticity. It is a world of mysterious dreams, the Promised Land, a metaphor for true faith and authentic existence. I have always dreamt about this country the way a homeless person led through the desert dreams about the Promised Land and a medieval mystic — about the kingdom of Christ, which will appear after the Apocalypse. During my most difficult hours, I would remind myself that this is not yet the abyss of sadness, that the real chasm opens up when there is a sudden upsurge of implacable longing for a country I have never seen. During my happiest moments, I knew that this is not yet the summit of bliss, that is there — in the Himalayas, on the Roof of the World. These changes have become clear in all areas of her life and creative activity.
Zurn She had already begun to explore Catholicism in greater depth as part of her ongoing spiritual quest, and she enjoyed long discussions with local religious figures such as Tolstoyan ascetic Father Stanislovas, Monsignor Vasiliauskas and Franciscan priest Julius Sasnauskas. Thanks for telling us about the problem. Jurga Ivanauskaite is a unique figure in contemporary literature in the Baltic states. After her visits in the Far East, she became an active supporter of the Tibet liberation movement. The ruling stated that it could only be sold in shops selling erotic products and the author was being discussed on weekly crime programmes on Lithuanian state radio.
Jurga Ivanauskaite. Gone with her dreams