Happy Future / short stories

Renata Šerelytė, Laura Sintija Černiauskaitė
Happy Future / short stories
Published:
2015
ISBN:
9789986398448
Number of pages:
160
Dimensions:
145 mm x 217 mm
Cover:
Hardback
Publisher:
Lietuvos rašytojų sąjungos leidykla

The form of cultural cooperation when two writers publish one book following the principle “to write separately, to publish together” is a rarity. The book compiled by a female duet is more dynamic, has a more variable spectrum and more abundant coverage than a collection compiled by a single author that often fails to avoid monotony. Partnership of the short stories becomes an intriguing impetus: accords and contrasts, supplements and mismatches, which extend the semantic content of the book under discussion. It is strange that the short stories seem to be coupled almost naturally.


The first couple of the short stories (Prosenelė [The Great-grandmother] by Sintija and Giminės šaknys [The Family Roots] by Renata) sharply positions the dominants of the worldview of both authors and their cardinally different style of narration. The problematic kernel of this couple is designated in the titles of both short stories – the origin and roots of the family, the meaning of the genetic tradition, physical, cultural and moral inheritance. Sintija’s girl visualises her non-existent (imaginary?) great-grandmother in the mysterious space of an old estate, and Renata’s five-year-old boy simply tries to get rid of any family ties – he is ashamed to have a grandfather. The situation is programmed into the hepi fjūčer times when modifying flora and fauna and cloning people are going to become everydayness, all the specimen are going to be sterile and alike, the vector of the past stops existing. The fanciful model of dystopia being created by Renata with the help of grotesque measures smacks of real threats. In her other short stories technocratic civilisation, instrumental thinking, mechanisms of power of bureaucrats, judges, party leaders are also shown as destructive and dehumanising threats of the new reality.

Performers of Renata’s roles – business people, politicians, the former Soviet functionaries, the “new Lithuanians” – are egoistic, unsympathetic social climbers, bribe takers, money-grubbers, people who are making money illegally, who have blocked access to the lakes for the public, have build tasteless villas, who look down on a poor ordinary man. In representing the negative social and political climate through the status and privileges, interests and manipulations of the supposed “elite” the writer intensifies criticism ranging from mockery (through all the stages of satire) to sarcasm. The world reveals itself somewhat more gently and compassionately, sooner from the perspective of an ordinary man, a young girl, a woman, in Sintija’s short stories; her characters – young people who cannot overcome their complexes, whose ambitions are unfulfilled and who are not understood or are rejected – are meek, scared characters of the periphery; it was those people who Fyodor Dostoyevsky referred to as “humiliated and insulted”, whereas Renata’s characters are those who humiliate and harm. The employee of the Botanical Garden who takes care of the rhododendrons, but who got rid of her baby, the florist with her disabled son, Fortūnatas who desires women but is afraid of them, a tenant single mother, a woman who is asking for social housing – all of them are people in need, as opposed to Renata’s characters who live in abundance. Both the shortage and abundance, however, are related merely to matter. Both writers reflect painful peculiarities of the condition of the current society in their own way, but Renata also programmes the grim future if these unwelcome trends intensify.

The best short stories of the collection are Ežeras ateina pas tave [The Lake is Coming to You] by Renata and Nekaltutis [The Innocent] by Sintija, which won Antanas Vaičiulaitis Literary Award in 2012. These two short stories draw both authors together by some invisible ties coming close each other on the existential plain.

Eighteen short stories of the collection criss-cross by unexpected configurations therefore this unusual book is worth reading. The minuet is a couple dance.

Excerpt

Laura Sintija ČERNIAUSKAITĖ

Great–great grandmother
The summer is sunny and windy. Cumulus clouds float by so quickly that their paths become a never–ending film. Boats sail in, giant elephants and giraffes disembark, injured crusaders fall from the trotters and their wounds heal before your eyes, the princess adjusts her veil – her hairstyle becomes disheveled, a small mirror falls out of her hand and she grows a witch’s nose. Everything there is different than it is on earth. When things get boring here, below, then you can always toss your head back to the sky. The sky is endless, adults say that it is impossible to imagine this. But why always just imagine? This calms and comforts me because then it means that the sky is one thing that is eternal. At least, one of the things that I know about. Everything else ends, quite quickly. Candies in a bag, summer, the textbooks of first grade. The life of a dog, even the life of a human ends. But the sky always exists, it always hangs above y
...

Laura Sintija ČERNIAUSKAITĖ

Great–great grandmother
The summer is sunny and windy. Cumulus clouds float by so quickly that their paths become a never–ending film. Boats sail in, giant elephants and giraffes disembark, injured crusaders fall from the trotters and their wounds heal before your eyes, the princess adjusts her veil – her hairstyle becomes disheveled, a small mirror falls out of her hand and she grows a witch’s nose. Everything there is different than it is on earth. When things get boring here, below, then you can always toss your head back to the sky. The sky is endless, adults say that it is impossible to imagine this. But why always just imagine? This calms and comforts me because then it means that the sky is one thing that is eternal. At least, one of the things that I know about. Everything else ends, quite quickly. Candies in a bag, summer, the textbooks of first grade. The life of a dog, even the life of a human ends. But the sky always exists, it always hangs above your head and watches with its limitless eye.
Here, below, there is one mysterious, though already almost terminal thing. That is the old manor. I approach it on the path overgrown with lilac bushes. When I was very young, mother pushed me here in a pram. Once, we were attacked by a rabid animal, but mother protected us. She said that the lilac path was planted when she was finishing her studies, but I think that she again had it confused. It looks like the lacy petticoats of the countess have turned into this shrubbery.
A small, thin birch tree grows on the terrace, with the remaining wall of the manor building dotted with window holes and the holey roof. In the yard there is a stone fountain with a moss– covered bottom, and behind the house among the old linden trees, there is a pond overgrown with duckweed. Sweetbriar, nettle, and burdock reign here like fans lost by the Polish ladies. Rimvydis built an auto service station in the stable.
In the mansion, there are folding front doors engraved with ornaments. They are nailed shut, but the kids sneak in through the windows, play hide– and– seek, smoke and do goodness knows what else. I’ve never been inside. It seems to me that to steal into the mansion through a window is the same as trying to eat a cake through your ear. It is not nice and it’s impossible. And if the mansion’s doors are locked, it’s better to wait patiently until they open up themselves.
This happened one morning. I was sent to the shop for salt – mother was getting ready to make pancakes and the last pinch of salt suddenly spilled from the overturned jar. I told her, don’t keep salt in ajar, then grandmother, father’s mother started muttering. Mother’s mother also used to keep salt in ajar. She died the summer I learned to ride a bike, but she stands by my desk during arithmetic and helps me solve arithmetic problems. That’s why everyone thinks I am better at arithmetic than spelling. It’s a pity that grandmother doesn’t appear during spelling lessons. Perhaps she herself is a poor speller?
So, I was sent out for salt.
But I somehow inadvertently turned toward the manor. I was going to get salt, but I turned near the manor. The morning was entirely calm, a few small clouds idly floated in the sky – there was no cinema of clouds today. I felt a draft blow through the new entrance inside the manor. It rustled the nettle; it tickled me from afar.
The large wooden doors were open like arms reaching out at me, and human excrement was lying on the threshold. Three fresh sticks of shit like a rune sign proclaiming something incomprehensible. Even though I finished the first grade, I still read poorly, my father says that I am not clever and that after school he will give me away to Rimvydis to wash cars. I squat and see a fleshy, green fly shining on the excrement.
I wonder: how can this be, that radiant things exist with the unclean. This thought catches me, beyond it, like a door, another thought opens, beyond that one, another one – and I reflect as if I was walking from hall to hall in the endless manor. Suddenly, I hear a terrible crackling behind my back. I turn around and see how the wall of lilacs parts and above it sways a ship. A brilliant steed emerges from the bushes, a tiny, bony countess sits on its back, and a ship with a white sail rolls the ocean of her grey curls. The face of the countess is thin and wrinkled, resembling a powdered raisin. From her expression you can’t tell if she is preparing to get angry or if she will soon break into a ravishing smile. She extends a gloved hand with a gigantic ring toward me:
– Help me get down.
But her ring is so heavy that she quickly tires of holding out her hand and changes her mind:
– Or not, stay there.
I stand up in such a way so that I would hide the pile of excrement, because it seems to me that shit and the countess cannot exist together.
– Whose might you be, young lady?
– Osvaldas’s, – I answered as loudly as possible. You have to talk this way to old people.
– Which one? – the countess asked seriously.
– Osvaldas from the pond, – that’s how they referred to father, because we lived by the pond and during his childhood my father drowned there.
– Aha, – she said and studied me further through the slits of her eyes. – And what are you hiding there behind your back?
Confused, I stepped back and heard how the heel of my sandal mashed the crap.
– Well, well, what do you have there? – the countess persisted. With her neck stretched out inquisitively she urged the horse/steed forward, little devils of laughter sparkled in her eyes.
I moved.
– Oh – the countess shrieked.
– That’s not my work, – I explained nervously.
– I know, – the countess giggled covering her mouth with a handkerchief. Then she suddenly become serious and states almost fiercely:
– If you cover other people’s excrement then nothing good will come of you. You’ll always be the coverer of excrement, and everyone else will be a whole head above you. Do you understand?
– I understand.
– Now sit.
The countess pointed to an empty spot on the saddle in front of her.
– What do you.. .I can’t.. .I was sent for salt... – I whispered neither at the fence nor at the stake.
I’ve never sat on a steed and I’d never met a real countess, and now it befell me all at once. The countess grabbed me by the scruff and threw me onto the saddle, her small hand was bony and superhumanly strong, it was really unbelievable how she did this. A shudder went through my skin.
Now hold on, – the countess whispered, and before I could comprehend how and what to hold on to, we bolted like lightening through the open doors into the abyss of the manor.
There are various types of films. Even that accelerated film of dreams, which when you awake from you only remember interrelated splinters that don’t stick together. Or else – you vividly dreamt something, but what – who knows. This is what it was like for me with that mysterious manor into which the countess and I galloped on the steed. I had waited so long for this moment, and now it was as though I had fallen asleep and dreamt a very quick dream full of people. When the countess returned me to that same place from which she had taken me, nothing had changed. The sun hadn’t even moved from the lilac leaves. Though it seemed to me that there, in the manor, a long life could have been lived. There, a lacy parasol shone in the sun, the wind tore it out of my hands, a heavy locket warmed my heart and the oppressive heat of the desired body pressed against silk sheets. There, a uncomfortably curled up newborn tilted the womb, there remained a flight in the swing under the gigantic dome of the linden tree, the whip of the ash across the shoulders, hounds bounding before you, a bear’s pelt on the wall near the manor’s Dutch– tile stove and suddenly – its coarseness beneath my back and a falling silver goblet with Cupids. Everything fell from me like fragments. I glanced back at the doors of the manor – they were still open, and the smashed windows gaped in hall on the first floor, empty plastic bottles and someone’s nylon stocking lump lay about. The squashed pile of excrement still lay on the threshold. Only now it occurred to me that there was a connection between the excrement and the countess, perhaps even a very direct link. But this was no longer important. I burst into tears from an unspeakable confusion of emotions. The countess compassionately watched me from atop her steed, she even gave me her perfumed handkerchief to blow my nose.
– Now go get the salt, – she said indulgently.
The empty bag rustled in my hand with gentle reproach.
– Will we meet again? – I asked.
– Have we ever been separated? – the countess slyly grinned, and tugged the reins. The steed raised its leg which shined as though lacquered. Before bounding into the lilacs, the countess turned once more:
– By the way, give my greetings to your mother.
How do you know my mother, I wanted to ask, but I was blinded by the diamond in the countess’s earring flashing in the sunlight. Then I was alone.
The next day I loitered and loitered around the manor waiting for something. In the grasses near the estate’s pond I found an earring with a large transparent stone. After I had lifted it before the sun, it was already too late. I remembered a vow to my mother – to never touch lost jewelry because a witch may have lost it. I placed the earring back in the exact same place and I even tucked the grasses under it so that it looked untouched.
In the evening, the earring had turned into a drop of dew, barely larger than the others.
Though, I already felt in my fingertips the rousing power of the witch.
Translated by Dalia Švambarytė
Renata Šerelytė

Renata Šerelytė

Renata Šerelytė (1970) is one of the most widely translated Lithuanian authors. Her works are available in German, Russian, Swedish and Georgian. She debuted in 1995 with a collection of short stories, and since then she has written almost 20 books. Coming from a small town herself, she often writes about daily life in small towns, which in her books is bleak and dreary, but also sweet and nostalgic. Her stories and her characters contain autobiographical details, and her greatest achievements are generally stylistic: she is a true master at crafting sentences. Šerelytė has also written several popular books for children, and is one of the few Lithuanian writers who also writes historical fantasy stories for teenagers and young adults. Her published books include a collection of poetry, essays and a few plays. She is also very highly thought of as a reviewer and critic.

Mėlynbarzdžio vaikai (2008)

Translated into German by Cornelius Hell, and winning the Human Rights Book Award in 2010, this is a very interesting literary achievement. On one hand, it is a fictionalised autobiography, containing quite a lot of features that are typical of a great number of Lithuanians. The story begins in Siberia, were two young Lithuanian children are growing up with a deported mother and a local father. After the mother’s death, which looks like suicide, the children go back to live with their relatives, in a homeland they have never seen before. They somehow manage to grow up there, in spite of the cold reception from the people and the community, but it does not end happily. There is a third child, who remains in Russia and grows up a very different person. The novel is written in what at first appear to be numbered chapters, but later they turn out to be numbered speakers: the mother (and later her ghost), the girl, the boy and the lost baby. Each has their own perspective on both the social context and the inner, deeper core of what makes a being human.

B i b l i o g r a p h y :
Žuvies darinėjimas: short stories. – Vilnius: Lietuvos rašytojų sąjungos leidykla, 1995.
Balandų ratas: short stories. – Vilnius: Lietuvos rašytojų sąjungos leidykla, 1997.
Jundos lemtis: adventure short stories for children (pseudonym Skomantas). – Vilnius: Tvermė, 1997.
Prakeiktas kardas: story of king Mindaugas: adventure short stories for children. – Kaunas: Šviesa, 1997.
Prakeiktas kardas: story of king Mindaugas: adventure short stories for children (in Braille). – Vilnius: Mūsų žodis, 1999.
Ledynmečio žvaigždės: novel. – Vilnius: Tyto alba, 1999.
Ėriukas po baobabu, arba Megztinis su uodega: poems for children. – Vilnius: Lietuvos rašytojų sąjungos leidykla, 2000.
O ji tepasakė miau: short stories. – Vilnius: Lietuvos rašytojų sąjungos leidykla, 2001.
Vardas tamsoje: novel. – Vilnius: Lietuvos rašytojų sąjungos leidykla, 2004, 2013.
Laukiniai mėnesiai: essays. – Vilnius: Alma littera, 2006.
Balzamuotojas: short stories. – Vilnius: Lietuvos rašytojų sąjungos leidykla, 2006.
Balzamuotojas: short stories (in Braille). – Vilnius: Lietuvos aklųjų biblioteka, 2007.
Krakatukų pievelė: fairy tale. – Vilnius: Alma littera, 2007, 2013.
Krakatukų pievelė: fairy tale (in Braille). – Vilnius: Lietuvos aklųjų biblioteka, 2008.
Mėlynbarzdžio vaikai: novel. – Vilnius: Alma littera, 2008, 2009.
Krakatukų brūzgėlynai: fairy tale. – Vilnius: Alma littera, 2008, 2013.
Krakatukų brūzgėlynai: fairy tale (in Braille). – Vilnius: Lietuvos aklųjų biblioteka, 2008.
Trenktukė, liūno vaikas: novella. – Vilnius: Alma littera, 2009.
Krakatukų jūra: fairy tale. – Vilnius: Alma littera, 2009, 2011, 2013.
Krakatukų jūra: fairy tale (in Braille). – Vilnius: Lietuvos aklųjų biblioteka, 2010.
Vėjo raitelis: novel. – Vilnius: Lietuvos rašytojų sąjungos leidykla, 2010.
Krakatukų jūra: fairy tale. – Vilnius: Alma littera, 2011.
Krakatukai kosmose: fairy tale. – Vilnius: Alma littera, 2012.
Sraige, nerūkyk: poems. – Vilnius: Lietuvos rašytojų sąjungos leidykla, 2013.
Krakatukai sniegynuose: fairy tale. – Vilnius: Alma littera, 2013.
Kokono baladės: novel. – Vilnius: Alma littera, 2014.
Rebekos salos: novel. – Vilnius: Alma littera, 2014.
Hepi fjūčer: 18 short stories (together with L. S. Černiauskaitė). – Vilnius: Lietuvos rašytojų sąjungos leidykla, 2015.

B o o k s i n f o r e i g n l a n g u a g e s :
Sterne der Eiszeit: Roman (Deutsch von A. Galvosaitė). – Berlin: Rowohlt, 2002.
Gwiazdy epoki lodowcowej (przełożyła A. Rybałko). – Wałowiec: Czarne, 2004.
Imię w ciemności (przełożyła A. Rybałko). – Wołowiec: Wydawnictwo Czarne, 2005.
Blaubarts Kinder (aus dem Litauischen von C. Hell). – Klagenfurt: Wieser, 2010.

A w a r d s :
1995 2nd award in publishing house “Skomantas” competition of history-adventure short stories for teenagers.
1996 1st award in Lithuanian Radio and Television contest for radio plays.
1997 Šarūnas Marčiulionis award for the book “Jundos lemtis” as the best book of lithuanian author of the year for children.
1999 2nd place in a contest by Lithuanian Open Fund for play “Stoglangis”.
2000 Žemaitė literary award for novel “Ledynmečio žvaigždės”.
2001 Antanas Vaičiulaitis literary award for short stories “Vėjo vėduoklė”, “Raudona ir balta” and “Saldžioji valanda”.
2007 Book “Krakatukų pievelė” was nominated in the Book of the Year Campaign, Children section.
2007 Book “Balzamuotojas” was nominated in the Book of the Year Campaign, Prose section.
2008 Book “Mėlynbarzdžio vaikai” was included into the list of twelve most creative books of the year.
2009 Book “Trenktukė, liūno vaikas” was nominated in the Book of the Year Campaign, Children section.
2009 Book “Mėlynbarzdžio vaikai” was nominated in the Book of the Year Campaign, Prose section.
2010 Jurga Ivanauskaitė literary award for novel “Mėlynbarzdžio vaikai”.
2010 Book “Krakatukų jūra” was nominated in the Book of the Year Campaign, Children section.
2012 Book “Krakatukai kosmose” was nominated in the Book of the Year Campaign, Children section.
2014 Book “Kokono baladės” was included into the list of twelve most creative books of the year.

Other books by Renata Šerelytė
The Islands of Rebecca


The Islands of Rebecca
Laura Sintija Černiauskaitė

Laura Sintija Černiauskaitė

Laura Sintija Černiauskaitė (1976) is the first Lithuanian to receive the European Union Prize for Literature. Her prose is very feminine, deeply psychological, and even Freudian. She portrays people in difficult and unusual emotional situations, and watches them disentangling themselves. She often analyses families, and relationships between men and women. However, in her works, painful and hard experiences are usually for the best, as they inspire, or even force, necessary changes, in order to make her characters better people. In this sense, she is a very optimistic writer, with a strong faith in a human being. She has written three novels and several collections of short prose, and she is also quite successful as a playwright. Her play "Liučė čiuožia" has been put on in Lithuania, Russia, Italy and Scandinavian countries.

Černiauskaitė’s third novel "Medaus mėnuo" won critical acclaim and was awarded the Jurga Ivanauskaitė Prize.

Other books by Laura Sintija Černiauskaitė
Medaus mėnuo


Medaus mėnuo
Breathing into Marble


Breathing into Marble

Publisher

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Lithuanian Writers' Union Publishing House was established in 1990. Currently we publish around 60 books per year and are ranged between 10 biggest Lithuanian publishing houses. The scope of our publications is wide: new books by Lithuanian authors, including prose, poetry, essays, memoirs and critical studies, also the first books by young authors, books from the literary canon and exiled authors as well as translations of elite foreign literature.

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Laura Sintija Černiauskaitė

Email: laurasintija@gmail.com