Sigitas Parulskis looks at the Holocaust through the eyes of the perpetrators. Vincentas makes a Faustian pact with an SS officer: in exchange for the safety of himself and his Jewish lover, Judita, he will photograph—"make art" of—the mass killings of Jews in the villages and forests of his occupied homeland
Sigitas Parulskis, Darkness and Company, Trans. by Karla Gruodis, Peter Owen Publishers, 2018.
Lithuania, 1941: Vincentas makes a Faustian pact with an SS officer: in exchange for the safety of himself and his Jewish lover, Judita, he will photograph—"make art" of—the mass killings of Jews in the villages and forests of his occupied homeland. Through the metaphor of photography, Sigitas Parulskis lays bare the passivity and complicity of his countrymen in the darkest chapter of Lithuania's recent history, in which 94 percent of its Jewish population perished.
The novel "Darkness and Partners" deals with the topic of the Holocaust in Lithuania. Mass killings of Jews begin in Lithuania during World War 2. Lithuanians soon join the Nazis who organize the Holocaust. The book reveals the drama of a man who became a witness of mass murders of the Jews, the murderers' drinking companion, their mate who is unable to change the flow of events. S. Parulskis tires to look at the Holocaust through the eyes of the perpetrators.
LONDON (Reuters) - Lithuanian writer Sigitas Parulskis first confronted the enormity of the Holocaust during a visit to London when he stumbled across a museum plaque showing collaborators from his small town who took part in the mass murder of Jews.
Decades after the end of World War Two, in which six million Jews across Europe were annihilated by the Nazis, some Lithuanian artists are confronting the role played by compatriots in the killings.
For Parulskis, Lithuania’s leading novelist, playwright and essayist, the discovery in 2010 that his northern town Obeliai saw 1,160 Jewish residents killed by the Nazis and local militias led to soul searching and resulted in the country’s first novel to confront the traumatic wartime legacy.
“Darkness and Partners” created a storm at home when it was published in 2012.
The graphic novel, which has yet to be translated into English, centers on Vincentas, a young photographer living in a rural town, who captures the gruesome work of Lithuanian executioners at the behest of a brutal Nazi SS officer nicknamed “the artist”. At the same time, Vincentas pursues a clandestine relationship with a Jewish woman.
“It does not matter if we are Lithuanians or any other nationality - we cannot simply avoid it,” Parulskis said on a visit to London. “There is shame within us and if we do not expel this shame, it is not a good thing.”
Despite anger from some, Parulskis was awarded Lithuania’s person of tolerance award in 2012 and also received positive support from other Lithuanians.
“During the writing of my book, I went back to my town. The center of town would have been completely empty the day after the Jews were killed. It would have been like something from a horror film,” Parulskis said.
“Jews who were erased from the life of that small town ... they have not disappeared from my memory nor, as a consequence, from the map of existence.”
The capital Vilnius was known across the Jewish world as the Jerusalem of the region due to its once vibrant cultural and religious life.
Lithuania’s Jewish population numbered around 220,000 when the Nazis invaded in 1941 and just over 10,000 survived. German squads were assisted by Lithuanian auxiliaries in killing Jews.
Juzenas is working with Parulskis on filming Darkness and Partners. “All of this concerns our history where citizens - who were Jews - were killed. Experiences of that period are a message for the future,” Juzenas said separately in London.
“You need to face the truth to find out what you want to tell your children and what you want from your future.” - Jonathan Saul
Sigitas Parulskis, The Towers Turn Red, Trans. by Liz O'Donoghue, Southword Editions, 2005.
Sigitas Parulskis (born in 1965), a Lithuanian poet, playwright, novelist, and literary critic, is one of Lithuania’s most fêted and influential contemporary writers. A graduate of Vilnius University in Lithuanian language and literature, Parulskis has published articles in many of the country’s most prominent newspapers and journals. He is a translator of Russian, American, and British literature and has worked as a lecturer in Creative Writing at Vilnius University, and is currently a lecturer at the Vilnius Academy of Arts. His first book of poetry, Iš ilgesio visa tai (All That Out of Longing), was published in 1990, and was soon followed by several books of poetry and essays, a collection of short stories, and five novels. He is also the author of several plays and theatre scripts. Works by Parulskis have won all the major Lithuanian literary awards. In 2002 the novel Trys sekundės dangaus (Three Seconds of Heaven) was recognized as best book of the year and garnered Parulskis the Lithuanian Writers’ Union Prize. In 2004, Parulskis received the National Prize in literature and the Lithuanian National Art and Culture Award. He received the Person of Tolerance Award for 2012 for his most recent novel, Tamsa ir partneriai (Darkness & Company), which tells the gripping story of a young Lithuanian man drawn into the events of the Holocaust in Lithuania. Parulskis is singular among Lithuanian writers for the ironic, incisive, critical, and sometimes provocative style in which he explores the traumas experienced by Lithuanians of his generation, who grew up under Soviet rule and came of age during the country’s transition to independence. The most beautiful moments in his writing explore the loneliness of being human and the brutal, primordial nature of reality with unsurpassed sensitivity and depth, and a soft irony unique to this author. Works by Parulskis have been translated into Russian, English, Latvian, Finnish, Polish, Czech, French, German, Greek, Swedish, and Italian among others.
Trys sekundės dangaus (Three seconds of heaven, 2002) The framework of the novel’s plot is constructed from the narrator’s memories of Soviet life. In post-1991 Lithuania the protagonist receives a Western sovietologist’s offer to recount his experience as a paratrooper in a unit in the Soviet military that was stationed in the former German Democratic Republic. When the idea fails (it is impossible to mechanically reproduce one’s experience), he takes another attempt at recording his story with a tape recorder, but this time alone in a small health-resort town near the sea. There the protagonist consumes a large amount of alcohol and ends up at a centre to become sober. There, in his bed and hung over, episodes from his past life appear – as a Soviet army paratrooper, his study years, his love for Maria, and episodes from the stories of his unplanned encounters with other women. In addition to the authentic, brutally obscene experience, which takes on an existential dimension, the novel is compelling in its language and style. The book contains slang and swear words, physiological, bodily sensations, but in the text all these elements fuse into what could a kind of “existential linguistics“. Critics have pointed out the writer’s rare ability to employ several language codes, to weave together the layers of the sacred and off-colour everyday talk.
Murmanti siena (The Murmuring Wall, 2008) The novel tells the story of four generations of Lithuanians, and effectively becomes the story of 20th-century Lithuania. The characters get involved with the communists, the Nazis, the Holocaust, the freedom fighters, and independence. They are also involved in their own lives: love, relationships, family, the past, the town, the city, the Church… The ‘murmuring wall’ of the title is both a real wall standing on the family’s homestead, and also a central metaphor for 20th-century history. It is all about either isolating the frightening evils that hide behind it, or fencing yourself off for safety and support.
Tamsa ir partneriai (Darkness & Company, 2012) Through the very contemporary metaphor of photography, leading Lithuanian author Sigitas Parulskis confronts the darkest chapter in Lithuania’s history and tries to understand “what happened to our peaceful nation” during the Nazi occupation that led to the murder of 94 per cent of its Jewish population. Accompanying a squad of local executioners to the villages and forests that were the main sites of the Holocaust in Lithuania, Vincentas descends into a paralyzing moral abyss – he is a powerless witness to both the horror of the events and the banal humanity of the killers. But his camera cannot protect him, and as Judita has warned, “the war will rip the masks from all of our faces.” When she learns of his secret, Judita rejects him and goes in search of her husband, a musician, in the Kaunas ghetto. In a surreal and harrowing climatic scene, the two lovers are reunited with the SS officer, who has orchestrated a sadistic erotic game that will seal each of their fates. Weaving together historical detail, heart-breaking poetic description, sensuality, Biblical references, and elements of magical realism in a thrilling plot, Darkness and Company is ground-breaking: it is the first major novel by an ethnic Lithuanian to examine the Holocaust in that country. It is also a powerful work of fiction that speaks directly to readers of all nationalities.
Reminiscent of the aesthetics of shocking beauty juxtaposed with horrific ugliness in such cinematographic masterpieces as Liliana Cavani’s The Night Porter and Lina Wertmüller’s Seven Beauties, Parulskis’ Darkness and Company is a tour de force, a blow to the reader in its handling of the tragic history of his nation – and a sigh of relief. The Holocaust is not sinking into oblivion in Lithuania. Instead, it is powerfully reinterpreted by a young writer whose experience would naturally lead him back to the 1980s, rather than to the Second World War. – prof. Leonidas Donskis.
Mano tikėjimo iltys (The Fangs of My Convictions, 2013) is a multi-layered and multi-genre book. With documentary-like detail, this often existential and ironic Parulskis essay describes the recollections of a Soviet, i.e. a twentieth-century, man, and additionally includes I am Love, a theatrical monologue. The writer himself suggests to the reader that these words come from observation, experience, and imagination. Within them, behind the dense (self-conscious) irony and veil of light sarcasm lies solid life experience and emotion, a variety of manifestations of being, reflections, realities, and recollections. The better part of the texts display Parulskis’ usual clear and evident thinking and writing style, next to which appears a new, and almost cynical fatigue of the narrator, that doesn’t stand-out, but reveals itself slowly – after all, convictions have fangs, but hold no promises. - http://ltbooks.nkpk.lt/catalog/view?id=16535