LITHUANIAN QUARTERLY JOURNAL OF ARTS AND SCIENCES
Volume 45, No. 1 - Spring 1999
Editor of this issue: Violeta Kelertas
Copyright © 1999 LITUANUS Foundation, Inc.
Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis, Žodžio kūryba.
Parengė Vytautas Landsbergis (Vilnius 1997: Lietuvos Rašytojų Sąjungos Leidykla), 111 pages.
Vytautas Landsbergis*, all but unknown in the West a decade ago, stands out among fin-de-siècle politicians by being active and popular in the diplomatic arena as well as continuing his work as a scholar of the highest caliber. The musicologist Landsbergis focused his research energy on Čiurlionis, but only those who have listened to him actually perform Čiurlionis' compositions can realize that his theoretical writings on the composer draw on profound musical experience.
Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis (1875-1911) had always been esteemed as one of the greatest Lithuanian artists who excelled in both music and painting: Landsbergis' latest publication opens up a totally new aspect of Čiurlionis, namely Čiurlionis the writer. That Čiurlionis' literary work has so far hardly been taken note of lies mainly in the fact that he did not write in Lithuanian. What is available was originally written in Polish, only a minor part of which was ever translated into Lithuanian; much of Čiurlionis' literary work seems to be lost for ever. A few notes on some of the texts published in this book will now be given.
The texts presented in this beautiful volume are grouped as follows: Daina, Iš Dienoraščių, Pasaka, Psalmė, Laiškai Devdorakėliui, Jūra, Sonata, Nuotrupos, Aforizmai. The book combines a number of illustrations with texts characteristic of Čiurlionis as a writer: Words have the two functions of form and sound which are integral for painting and music, but artistically words are perhaps even more complicated to handle than either form or sound. The one piece in the collection that arguably best combines all creative faculties is entitled "Jūra" and may in a way be considered as a variation on the musical theme of the ocean: The power, the infinity, as well as the sounds and the ever-changing shapes of masses of water are brought out, but the final result is just some foam (truputis putų).
A short diary entry apparently to be dated around 1900 shows the intensive feelings Čiurlionis experienced under the influence of natural phenomena: Clouds are coming up, at the same time the sun still shines and etches out clear shadows; then the clouds gather and turn ever darker so that the sun's light disappears. But the writer muses that we must keep light within us so that we can see in the darkness, because there is always light before the thunderstorm wipes out everything, but after the thunderstorm light will again prevail, just as it did since the beginning of the world.
This book is primarily a tribute to Landsbergis' wonderful Lithuanian style, at the same time it shows his strong command of Polish. In the few cases where Lithuanian versions of the original Polish texts were previously available Landsbergis' renderings are far superior to what we had so far. The introductory essay on "The creation of the word" (žodžio kūryba) is a splendid outline of what Landsbergis achieved in his research on the artist Čiurlionis. Landsbergis should now produce a full-scale biography of Čiurlionis integrating music, painting and creative writing.
Katholische Universität Eichstätt
* Vytautas Landsbergis (born 1932) provided an account of his life in his autobiography, of which I am familiar only with the German translation: Jahre der Entscheidung. Litauen auf dem Weg in die Freiheit. Eine politische Autobiogmphie. Aus dem Litauischen ūbersetzt von Irena Ülkekul. 1997 edition tertium: Ostfildern vor Stuttgart. 431 pages.