LITHUANIAN QUARTERLY JOURNAL OF ARTS AND SCIENCES
Volume 44, No.3 - Fall 1998
Editor of this issue: Violeta Kelertas
Copyright © 1998 LITUANUS Foundation, Inc.
THE CITY AND THE CITYSCAPE IN TWO LITHUANIAN NOVELS:
JURGIS KUNČINAS' TŪLA AND RIČARDAS GAVELIS' VILNIAUS POKERIS*
Centre for Comparative Literature,
University of Toronto
"Cities, like dreams, are made of desires and fears, even if the thread of their discourse is secret, their rules are absurd, their perspective deceitful, and everything conceals something else."
Italo Calvino, Invisible cities (1972)
The theme of the city is of relatively recent origin in Lithuanian prose, which has traditionally regarded the countryside as a privileged site of authentic human development. Indeed, the city and city life have come to occupy a prominent place in Lithuanian literary consciousness only upon the demise of the Soviet empire.1 It seems as though the challenges and opportunities of the post-totalitarian era have stimulated a profound interest in the city and its role in shaping new cultural and historical identities.
Although it is, by now, almost trite to dwell upon the largely negative architectural and urban legacy of Soviet rule, the persistence and effects of this inheritance cannot be ignored. Even today the residue of an oppressive ideology is palpable in the familiar trappings of the Soviet city, reminders of an era of kitsch and waste and the insignificance of the individual. In Vilnius, as in other old cities, the Blitzkrieg of forced urbanization has created a fragmented urban identity and a near total discontinuity in architectural history reflecting the upheavals of the Soviet era. the hopes and aspirations of the new age will long be overshadowed by a past that is literally embodied in the urban landscape.
This article will compare two urban novels by the contemporary Lithuanian writers Ričardas Gavelis and Jurgis Kunčinas: Vilniaus Pokeris, and Tūla, respectively.2 Written during the twilight of the Soviet empire, these novels inevitably wrestle with the totalitarian experience and provide disjunctive responses to the traumatic dilemmas facing the individual. What makes the comparison of these texts interesting and meaningful is the manner in which each makes figurative use of the city to represent and embody the diffuse meanings of an age. More than a mere backdrop for the action of the story, the city is virtually an actor in its own right and various notions of urban space are thematized. Each author builds a refined imagery of the urban environment which functions as a lens through which the condition of post totalitarianism is laid bare.
The relationship of the individual to the city is complex and works on the subject have been written from a variety of disciplinary perspectives. One important notion developed in the literature, and which appears again and again in the novels under discussion is that of the "legibility" of the cityscape.3 This idea presupposes a consideration of the city not as a thing in itself but as perceived by its inhabitants. At its most basic level, the legibility of a city is a precondition of survival, as it allows individuals to structure and identify their environment. But this elemental activity of "finding one's way" is also present in the higher individual and social needs: "A good environmental image provides an important sense of emotional security," establishing a harmonious relationship between the individual and the outside world. Moreover, "a vivid and integrated physical setting ... can furnish the raw material for the symbols and collective memories of group communication."4
Perhaps most importantly, the city has evolved into a powerful epistemological device and tool for self-knowledge. The built environment of a city is uniquely capable of condensing the passage of time onto the spatial plane, as though the vectors of the age were transcribed upon its architecture, demography and landscape. As such it functions as unsurpassed storehouse of anthropological memory, "one that far outstrips the memory of a nation, race or language."5 In this fashion, a new "analogical model of self-knowledge" emerges: just as the city is viewed developmentally, so does self-perception become at once retrospective and prospective. In the city, the course of one's fate is palpable and open to the senses. The city exists in a dynamic, communicative relationship with the city-dweller. As a medium of communication, the city forges community; as repository of memory, it preserves continuity from one generation to the next.
Of course, what we have begun to sketch must be understood as an ideal form of the city, presupposing the possibility of communication and the fruitfulness of the ensuing dialogue. However, these assumptions do not always hold. All too often it is the case that the urban space is so distorted, whether from excessive size or some other perverse quality that no meaning can be evoked from it or fixed onto it. It lacks that human dimension referred to by Aristotle when he said that the ideal city is only so large that the human voice can reach from one end to the other. A city without a dialogue becomes a dreadful, endless labyrinth with no center and no way out. Daily life in a space that is utterly unrecognizable, incomprehensible, where one has no sense of belonging instills a kind of metaphysical fear that may lead to philosophical resignation or even to regressive explosions of brutality and violence.6
II. Contextualizing the unreal: the city as nightmare in Vilniaus Pokeris7
Indeed, it is precisely this kind of distorted city which is described in Gavelis' Vilniaus Pokeris. The action of the novel takes place in the late seventies, with occasional flashbacks to prewar times and the first decades of the Soviet occupation. The narrative consists of four monologues, each told by a different person. The plot of the novel is centered on the fate of a man called Vytautas Vargalys, a former Lithuanian partisan and exiled political prisoner who at present works in the central library of Vilnius. He has a love affair with a young woman called Lolita who is murdered. No one knows the identity of the murderer. No one knows its purpose or significance.
Four different protagonists present their versions of this story with contradictory interpretations. All four protagonists are alive in Vilnius and know each other. Their narratives are fragmented and intermixed, resulting in an authorial voice that is often impossible to pinpoint. In the end, a kind of aggregate narrator emerges, one who is largely identified with Vargalys, while the other characters may be interpreted as extensions of his own consciousness.
The cityscape of Vilnius which Vargalys faces is so degraded that he refuses to recognize it as "real." In his eyes, the environment is utterly distorted and nightmarish. "Everything, everything here is a dream," he claims (77). He finds nothing stable, nothing solid to rely upon: "Houses can exchange places, appear or disappear," people suddenly start speaking in "some strange hissing language," inert objects take on human forms (394 41). The city itself takes on a strange, protean corporeality and appears to the protagonist in various guises: "Vilnius, like the toothless jaw of a whale, whispers huskily to you with secret words, tempts and lures you and then swallows... only to spit you out: mangled, stinking of whale-gut, wine, vodka and rum" (13).
The narrator envisions Vilnius as a totality: as a mortally infected, dying body. "Vilnius lies exhausted, virtually paralyzed, with its arms tied together and its mouth stuffed" (23). Vargalys, wandering around downtown, utters: "I'm not walking on a street, but along the back of a corpse" (233). Not only the spatial dimension, but the time of the city is also articulated in such collectivist, totalizing terms. "One already cannot remember the Lithuanian time of Vilnius", exclaims the narrator (26).
For Vargalys, contemporary Vilnius is dead because it has lost its history and its cultural grandeur. Alluding to a chain of historical and mythological themes orbiting the image of Vilnius as a sacred city and symbol of the triumphant medieval Grand Duchy of Lithuania, the narrator inverts the traditional mythologemes of the founding of Vilnius into symbols of its fall: the Iron Wolf "who was promised to howl through ages and shake the world" is now sick with throat cancer and "its metastases are destroying the brain of the city" (22-23). The mythic canis lupus is reduced to the status of an abandoned mongrel wandering aimlessly.
In this text all of the national shrines of Vilnius are desecrated and infected. For example, Mount Gediminas, "the heart of Lithuania" is just a short, blunt and weak phallus unable to become erect. The narrator speaks of this phallus as "a symbol of the castrated city, castrated Lithuania." (58) This loss of metaphysical eros is identified with the loss of "spirit" as the souls of the great Lithuanian dukes have devolved into the base corporeality contemporary Homo Vilnensis: "In Vilnius the spirits of the Lithuanian Dukes wander about, cajole their buddies, harass women and rudely push their way onto streetcars." (77) The "good people of Vilnius" who "died long ago" have come to be replaced by "faceless creatures," a distinct semi-human breed resembling cockroaches, dirty pigeons, and infested dogs (23, 77, 58, etc.).
In portraying the downfall of Vilnius, the narrator depends heavily upon binary oppositions of high and low, spirited and spiritless, dirty and pure, healthy and sick, etc. The fusion of these categories implies negativity, abnormality, ugliness, and consequently, nothingness. Vilnius in its current state is formed of the rubble of irreconcilable opposites, "an enormous cocktail mixed by the mad gods of mist" (77). Located "in between" the East and the West it has and has absorbed some of the spirit of each, and the narrator describes this combination as a "horrible mutt" (77).
However, the most significant pair of binary oppositions that lies at the very core of the narrator's construction of the city is surely that of gender. In fact, the "fall" of Vilnius is inseparably linked to its "feminization." The castrated body of the city has become something "in between" (Lith. subobėjo) the two genders.8 Once masculine, proud and erect, the present-day, wilted Vilnius is now associated mostly with the female protagonists.
Vargalys' depiction of women expresses the very essence of the city's deceitfulness and danger. They are tricksters and have power over the male body, the ability to neutralize his intellect and the desire to kill. Women in the novel also share the "lowest" characteristics of Vilnius: stink and filth. For example, a menstruating Stefania constantly refers to the "stench" of her body, and all of the women characters radiate the same sickly-sweet odor of rotting leaves that symbolize the disease and degradation of the city.
The spirit of downtown Vilnius is embodied in a particular woman, the alluring and deceptive Kirkė/Circe. Vargalys recalls how he and Gediminas are entrapped by this downtown deity:
She emerged from under the earth, or probably was born out of the autumn dampness - dew still covered her cheeks. It seemed as though a gust of wind carried her here from some gloomy crossroads. This can happen only in dreams or the night of Vilnius: just a second ago the street was completely empty and now here's this black-hairdo woman in an expensive, elegant coat right beside you and you aren't even surprised, she's already yours, she had to appear here because of these unpercievable rules of the Vilnius dream" (14).
Like the city itself, this dark beauty has "the vision of a shark," and her eyes lure the protagonists into another labyrinth identical to the maze of the city: "I was drawn into an invisible labyrinth where along its indistinguishable corridors wandering eyes were following me" (17). This "labyrinth" is in fact her vagina, "from the other side of human existence"... "from the triple cosmos of nirvana where intellect is not required in order to comprehend the world" (19-20). After making love to her, Vargalys feels literally emptied of his very essence and cannot detach himself from her body. It is another male, his friend Gediminas who throws him into a corner, saving him from total exhaustion and destruction.
Indeed, the narrator frequently evokes the profound link between architecture and the body as articulated by Donatella Mazzoleni. "Architecture is nothing if not: (1) an extension of the body, a modality that the body expresses to try to satisfy the need for totality; (2) a metaphor of the body, a modality that the body expresses to symbolize itself. A replica -And a double."9 In Vilniaus Pokeris, topological relations between woman's body and the cityscape are ubiquitous.10
First, the protean corporeality of the city is brutally mirrored in the female body. Just as Vilnius suddenly changes its shape and aspect, so do the women: their attractive appearance might disappear at any moment, revealing a repulsive essence. Thus Irena, the wife of Vargalys, who once appeared to him as his "holy virgin" is suddenly transformed into an inhumanely repulsive creature:
Now, cautiously, I am examining her body. I see it for the hundredth time, but I cannot restrain my repulsion. The breasts of this woman are supported from beneath by three disgusting layers of fat. It seems that when you stroke them rotten tissue remains on your hands. Her waist has somehow disappeared, but from under these bulging breasts square hips emerge. Coils of fat issue from her very innards, clinging to her loins, sagging to her knees and there's hardened celiulite in her armpits and from her entire body, from every pore, emanates an acrid smell" (84).
This image is linked to the cityscape, as Irena blends into the urban backdrop. "She was lured into old Vilnius, closer to the old streets and churches, neglected houses with their grim, rank yards as if only there, in the center of the city could she disappear, having connived with the very spirit of Vilnius. The spirit frightened me" (87-88). This negative portrayal of woman is associated with and reinforces the deceitful, nightmarish qualities of the city.
Furthermore, Vargalys' efforts to find a "real" dimension to the city is inseparably linked to his search for a "real" woman, a relationship which holds the promise of a fruitful dialogue and his ultimate salvation. For him, contact with a "healthy", "perfect" female body would prove the existence of the "real" essence of the city, otherwise masked by its distorted facade. Phrased in Mazzoleni's terms, Vargalys struggles to locate the absent "totality" of the city in a woman's body, and discovers the potential for this perfection in the woman whom he refers as his "true love", Lolita: "She does not even know that she has to be a substitute for all of these walking corpses and even my ugly, beloved Vilnius" (192). For the narrator, Lolita appears initially to be the only real dimension of the city, her body "the real body of Vilnius" which he found "under the faded garments". "She lies naked and I can enjoy myself looking at her firm breast and slim waist, and to feel the fluids of her secret beauty coursing through her long legs... (97). During their love making episodes, Vargalys feels that he is experiencing "true" intimacy with another body, a redemptive contact that relieves him of his solitude: "This closeness gives meaning to my existence, one could not imagine such closeness alone... For this one needs another person, in all her fullness... I am not alone any more" (100).
However, this redemptive contact is short lived, as the personal, particular identity of Lolita's body is erased by the totalizing character of Vargalys' thought: in his mind, Lolita becomes "the body of all-woman", "one large feminine entity," an "ever changing, faceless body with no gaze" (99). Like the ever shifting, unreliable cityscape, this body lures the narrator into a labyrinth, into a "superhuman, impossible vagina," into a "multifaceted, multi-branched maze" with "another library and the scattered dry leaves of the trees" (238).
Thus in a series of parallels, a kind of matrix of signification forms between the city landscape and the female body. The constant juxtaposition of the narrator's desire to make contact with the "other" and the ultimate futility of his every attempt characterizes his condition. Because of his insistence on pure categories, he is unable to transcend the binary oppositions which separate the present from the past, the self from the other and the individual from his environment. Communication and dialogue are frustrated while the narrator's monologue goes unanswered. In the final analysis, the city seems to be nothing more than a projection of his subjectivity. Unable to make contact with objective reality or with another subjectivity, he remains trapped in the labyrinth of his own mind.
II. A City within a City: Jurgis Kunčinas' Tūla11
Kunčinas' novel is set in the late Soviet period. The narrator is also a man, one of those superfluous individuals of Soviet society: homeless, alcoholic and forlorn. We are not told his name. He addresses his ruminations to a woman named Tūla. Although she is the main subject of the narrative, her image and words are presented only through his recollection. In the course of the narrative we discover that she died tragically and the story is being told after her death. The text can thus be described as a combination of letters to Tūla, narrated notes about Tūla, and at the same time a chronicle of the narrator's past and present addressed to the implied reader.
Like Gavelis' protagonist, Tūla's narrator also sees Vilnius as a sick body, "ready to bury itself," and like Vargalys, he struggles to overcome the alienation he feels towards his environment: "How furiously I search for even the most tenuous signs of my relationship with Vilnius, as if on it would depend not only my past life but my future life as well, even my death" (33). His response is to identify and appropriate to himself a personal space of belonging within the city, and through this intimate part, make a connection to the greater whole.
His efforts are directed towards the shabbiest, poorest and most neglected area of downtown Vilnius called Užupis (literally - "beyond the river"). This space, hidden from tourists and bypassed by the waves of Soviet construction, inhabited by drunkards, tramps, marginalized artists and other individuals not quite suitable for the brave new Soviet world has literally been left to rot. Here the clash between two eras, the old and the new, is particularly manifest: beautiful historical buildings are on the verge of collapse; stately courtyards are full of discarded furniture, abandoned cats and dogs; churches are stuffed with garbage and infested with mice and rats. The entire area is drowning in wild vegetation: moss, poisonous mushrooms, burdocks and nettles. This makes of Užupis a strange microcosm, a kind of threshold where the collision of death and life, the ugly and the beautiful reaches its peak: "Poverty, despair, drunken songs, spring thaws and the mist, purple like an endless pool of spilled ink, and the pale blossoms of wild lilac bushes..." (9). It is precisely this area marked by contradiction and chaos which the narrator claims as his spiritual inheritance.
The narrator's painful, personal memory rooted in the varied details of Užupis' landscape legitimates this claim. For him, this locality is pregnant with numerous emotional ties and associations with people and events. There is an entire set of places and sights which serve as points of reference for the establishment of his universe: the old house, the churches, Bekešas hill, the two bridges and so on. In the narrator's personal history these objects weave the past and the present from two temporal levels: stories from "back then" fuse with those from the Soviet era. The old house frequented by drunkards reminds the narrator of his exiled relatives and his father who was "knocking at the locked door upon his return from the fallen Reich;" the abandoned monastery building where now only "dirty chicken are kept and motorcycles are assembled" evokes memories of the narrator's aunt and cousins who emigrated to America; the church of St. Teresė, now drowning in garbage, evokes memories of his mother praying here, etc. In spite of his marginal social status, his intimate bond and long familiarity with this environment provide a certain sense of belonging.
How often I'm frustrated by all this talk and writing about people's love for Vilnius, about these oaths made to return to this eternal city from the very end of the world. I believe neither their intelligent and refined sophistries nor their mournful sighs, but obviously, I'm wrong. Who am I to judge such sincerely felt emotions towards the facades, landscape and topography of the city, that valley and this curb of the street. But who, if not me? I, too, can add my two bits. For two bits in the old Vilnius you could get a shot of vodka! But the cards in my hand aren't the greatest either. I'm not sure that I could love the city in which I experienced so much poverty, contempt and misfortune. But for all that, I know it as well as I know my low life. (28-29)
It is this individual, traumatic memory that allows him to challenge the pathetic/romantic myth that bonds so many of his contemporaries to Vilnius. The narrator of Tūla struggles to map his past, to organize the fragments of his personal memory spatially across the landscape of Užupis, thus claiming his "spiritual inheritance" in the city and "domesticating" its distorted space.
As in Vilniaus Pokeris, Kunčinas' image of the city is also clearly feminized. Not only the microcosm of Užupis, which the narrator calls the "womb of downtown" (9) but all of Vilnius is symbolically tied to the body of Tūla. This relation is especially manifest in the textual representation of the multiple spatial dimensions of the urban landscape. Through Tūla's intervention, the narrator is able to uncover the plural character of urban reality in the horizontal and vertical planes of the city.
What I identify as the horizontal dimension is dedicated to a naturalistic description of the daily life of the city. On this plane, the gaze of the narrator is fixed on streets, windows, corridors and courtyards. In an ironic manner this perspective reveals grim scenes of urban carnivalesque: the window of the narrator's house faces that of the morgue, revealing drunken surgeons performing an autopsy; an exhibitionist university professor strips in front of his lit window; dirty apartments and courtyards hide scenes of drinking, sexual orgies and so on.
The vertical architectural dimension of Vilnius is closely associated with Tūla's image. For the narrator, her "presence" is especially manifest in the highest points of the cityscape: steep roofs, hills, and in particular, church towers. This link between Tūla and churches is quite profound and thoroughly developed in the novel. Tūla's house, the symbolic center of the city maze, is surrounded by churches: "Tūla's miserable house lies on the other side of the lorry bridge. Today, as centuries ago, it is surrounded by Catholic and Orthodox churches, none of which measure up to our high-walled Bernardin church, but they are all more graceful, dazzling with towers, parapets and murals..." (13). Her figure, slim and erect, reminds the narrator of a gothic church, an association made explicit when the narrator compares Tūla to his former university teacher, who walks "straight as the tower of the Virgin Mary the Peacemaker" (22).
This association of Tūla with the "high" aspects of the city serves as a symbolic elevation of the narrator's gaze "above" the horizontal level to the vertical sphere of "high" objects. This process reaches its culmination when in a flight of fantasy the narrator is transformed into a bat: he escapes through the window of the hospital's "drunk-tank" and flies across downtown to Tūla's house.
Then, for the first time, I was flying to you, Tūla, with no idea whether you're home, if you still live on the shores of the Vilnelė river. I was rising and rising, flying above the "Butterfly Cemetery" - from this height the frosty grass looked like a white cloth. On the horizon, the Belmont forest was glistening, frozen with sadness..." (97).
This flight of the narrator and his view of the city from "above" amounts to an extension of the boundaries of Vilnius rather than an escape from its confines, once again expanding and enhancing the narrator's overall perception of the city.
Tūla is similarly linked to the city through her association with nature. Her body is covered with the same wild vegetation as Užupis, and itself resembles the body of the earth: in the narrator's imagination it is flat and moist - "frog-like". His desire to leave the imprint of his palm on Tūla's body, so that it stays "for thousands of years" parallels his wish to engrave a topographical map on Vilnius' ground with his feet (12).
Finally, Tūla's body serves as a link between the narrator's body and that of the city. In the narrative this idea is presented through a set of complex metaphorical relations, especially in one of the final scenes when the narrator makes love to Tūla on the Vilnelė river bank - the symbolic and geographical borderline of Užupis. This scene symbolically reconciles the contradictions that characterize urban reality. Here, the various spatial dimensions - the vertical and horizontal, the heavenly and earthly all merge. The two lovers lie on the ground among wild vegetation covered with moist, sticky mud such that Tūla's body becomes almost inseparable from the earth: "Burdocks on your thighs, on your trembling breasts, on your stomach covered with shadows growing like weeds, like the musk of grasses..." (171). The narrator promises to wash her in the Vilnelė river so she will become as "white as the church of Precista," an Orthodox church in downtown Vilnius. The action reaches its climax when from under the lovers' entwined bodies a spring of fresh water erupts (171).
Thus, the narrator's love-making to Tūla, the union of his body with hers alludes to the narrator's merging with the city ground. His "body" and that of the city become identical. In the end his claim to the spiritual inheritance of Užupis is based not only on his historical belonging to the area and his personal memory, but is sealed by his actual, physical identification with the urban landscape of his chosen territory. As a final gesture, the narrator transports the remnants of Tula's dead body form the countryside and buries them in the house where she and the narrator's family once lived, thus cementing the link between himself, Tūla and their environment. Tula's story, which takes place in the Soviet era, is joined to that of the past, overcoming the radical discontinuity between the different historical periods. In this way the narrator asserts his right to the heritage of this house, city, time and this history:
Be that as it may, this territory is already mine. It is marked by my trampish footprints; the shabby, as if pissed-on trees, bearing the imprints of events, traumas, the injuries of my legs and head, blows and kicks into my ribs. These notes could be just a documentary proof, formal proof of my claims or pretensions, even though they have no judicial or other power (190).
In this manner the narrator identifies with the city completely. Just as the city has suffered humiliation, so does he, the siniuga,12 bear "the imprints of events" which took place on this land.
The foregoing analysis suggests that the imagery of the city and understanding of the totalitarian condition are clearly quite different in Vilniaus Pokeris and Tūla. Although the action of both novels takes place in Vilnius, Gavelis and Kunčinas tend to articulate the cityscape in different ways. Each privileges a different geography of urban space and develops a distinct mode of representation.
In Vilniaus Pokeris, the narrator's map of the city is indelibly colored by the totalizing categories of his thought. Set in irreconcilable opposition to the empty form of his idealized Vilnius, the actual city is stripped of its potentiality and the narrator resigns to despair. On the other hand, Kunčinas refuses to treat the city as a totalizing symbol. He divides it into several urban spaces, creating an active politics of spatiality within a regionalized urban landscape. This enables the city to have a plural identity and preserves its architectural and human dimensions. Living through the same identity crisis, his narrator is concerned with making familiar, with domesticating his space, not with its destruction.
For Gavelis the degraded present of the post-Soviet city provides no opportunity for the individual to reconstruct his fragmented history and existence. In Vilniaus pokeris the common myths of Lithuanian nationalism are dethroned, but only, it seems, to emphasize how they have been crushed by the realities of the Soviet era. The narrator does not transcend
the opposition of "Lithuanian" versus "Totalitarian," of "the past" versus "the present." Rather, he longs for the lost glories of an earlier era and simultaneously despises them, for they shall never again be actualized. In persisting with his nostalgia for the glorious Lithuanian past he is destroyed by its incommensurability with the present.
Again, for Kunčinas, nothing is completely irreconcilable. The past coexists with the present - the distorted city may be a harsh environment, but it nonetheless bears the imprint of events and can be recognizable. Kunčinas rejects collectivist notions of the nation or collective time. Rather than longing for an artificial mono-history that embraces all, his protagonist embraces the reality of the present and reconstructs his own personal history. A belief in and preservation of human memory is what allows Kunčinas to overstep the boundaries of a totalitarian discourse and set his novel in the more universal context of the existential situation of the 20th century individual.
Finally, for each author, the city is markedly gendered. The relationship of the narrator to the city is parallel to and at times identical with his relationship to a woman. His ability to communicate with his environment depends largely upon the possibility and potentialities of actual human contact. In Vilniaus pokeris, the sexes are no more reconcilable than any other set of oppositions. The gulf between the self and the other is so extreme that a mad state of permanent violence is the only condition imaginable, whereas Kunčinas' novel asserts the potential of the city to engender human contact and to form living human communities in spite of the turbulence of the age.
An earlier version of this paper was presented at the 16th Association for the Advancement of Baltic Studies Conference in Bloomington, Indiana on June 28, 1998.
1 In addition the novels examined in this article, see Ričardas Gavelis Vilniaus džiazas (Vilnius: Vaga, 1993), Paskutinė žemės žmonių karta (Vilnius: Vaga, 1995); and Jurgis Kunčinas Blanchisserie, arba Žvėrynas - Užupis (Vilnius: Tyto alba, 1997). See also works by Valdas Papievis and Antanas Ramonas.
2 Ričardas Gavelis, Vilniaus Pokeris (Vilnius, Vaga, 1989), Jurgis Kunčinas, Tūla (Vilnius, 1993). Both Gavelis (b. 1950) and Kunčinas (b. 1947) belong to the same "middle generation" of Lithuanian writers; i.e., those who began their literary careers in the late 1970's, when the Soviet system started to drift into a protracted period of stagnation lasting until Gorbachev's ascent to power in 1985.
3 Kevin Lynch, The Image of the City (Massachusetts, 1970).
4 Ibid., p. 4.
5 Bogdan Bogdanovitch, "The City: Pro and Contra," in Joanna Labon, (ed.) Storm: Out of Yugoslavia (London, 1994), p. 47.
6 Other sources that have informed the following analysis include Mary A. Caws, City Images (Gordon and Breach, 1991) and Edward W. Soja, Postmodern Geographies (London, 1989).
7 Numbers in parentheses refer to pages in text; my translations.
8 The horror of the "in between" gender position is vividly portrayed in a scene with Vargalys and a woman called Vaiva who has been sent by "Them" to spy on Vargalys. Vargalys initially trusts her since she has a beautiful, healthy body. However, he discovers her reading his secretely kept books and in a fit of violence attempts to rape her. He is horrified to discover that she has no vagina. Vaiva turns out to be unreal, "just a mechanical doll" which eventually disappears.
9 Donatella Mazzoleni, "The City and the Imaginary," in Erica Carter, James Donald and Judith Squires (eds.), Space and Place: Theories of Identity and Location (London, 1993), p. 289.
10 For more on the relationship of gender and the city, see Elizabeth Wilson, The Sphinx in the City. Urban Life, the Control of Disorder, and Women (Berkeley, 1992).
11 Numbers in parentheses refer to pages in text, my translations.
12 Literally, the blue one, a term reserved for the most inveterate of alcoholics marked by a bluish facial tint and colorful bruises all over the body.
ERRATA -- [to printed version -- corrected in above version of the article]
In Violeta Davoliutė's article "The City and the Cityscape in Two Lithuanian Novels: Jurgis Kunčinas' Tūla and Ričardas Gavelis' Vilniaus Pokeris" in Lituanus Vol. 44:3, Fall 1998, second line on page 58 should read: "One important notion developed in the literature, and which appears again and again in the novels under discussion is that of the 'legibility' of the cityscape"; on page 60, second line, first paragraph "All four are alive in Vilnius..." should read "All four protagonists live in Vilnius...".