“Breathing into Marble” is a novel by the contemporary Lithuanian writer Laura Synthia Cherniauskaite, who won the 2009 EU Literary Prize. It tells the story of Isabelle, who adopts a boy of difficult character. The entry of a new member into the family is followed by an ordeal – the fragile balance of the family is disturbed. The novel inadvertently drives the reader to great thought. In the beginning, the style of plain and simple storytelling eventually turns out to be quite ambiguous…
We offer an exclusive interview with the writer in which she honestly shares her views on writing and literature.
– As far, as we know, you started writing in your early years, and succeeded in literature concurs, when you had only 17 years. How could you describe your first steps in being author?
– I have never specifically learned how to be a write. I just read a lot since I was a child, almost every day. I should have known that an open book was waiting for me at home. I started writing at the age of eight and it was an exciting, breathtaking game for me. Usually children play with a ball, with toys is not that right? Contrary, I took a pen in my hand and in a thick diary (I still remember it had a cool red cover) started writing, creating an imaginary world. I felt absolutely free there and I felt dizzy from that feeling. So, time by time, first stories began to appear.
– Who reads your writings first, whose ideas and evaluations can your trust with closed eyes?
– Do not have such a person. I do not trust anyone so blindly, even myself … So the first reader of my works is my wife. I do not expect any evaluation or advice from him. It is enough for me to just look at her face when he reads and then when she finishes reading. I immediately guess: whether I succeded or not
– In 2009 you were awarded with The prize of European Union in literature, How did this achievement change your life? How would your career have developed without that prize?
– How long ago was this story! I even forgot. Career? I never thought writing was a career. Writing is a way of life for me, like breathing and walking. I would do this in all cases, and the fact that the novel “Breathing Marble” won an EU award, and was translated into many languages, did not change my daily life in any way. I have never made a normal amount of money with books. My children have never been to Europe like other kids in Lithuania do. If I was to be proud, I would have be proud of the prizes I received (by the way, some prizes won in Lithuania are more valuable and important to me than this EU prize). But sadly or fortunately, my parents taught me always to be modest and simple.
– “Breathing into Marble”, Georgian audition got acquainted with your literature after this concrete book. Have you ever heard anything about Georgia and it`s culture?
– Of course, I have been to Georgia. That was a few years ago. There I met some of your writers too. I love and am attracted to Georgia. I got to admit that I am not fond of travelling, However, Georgia is one of the few countries where I would like to travel again…
– Lietuva and Georgia both have the history and influence of Soviet-rule. Soviet period has passed on our social life many difficulties. What do you consider the main problem, which is associated with Soviet-union and how do they affect Lietuva on the one hand and Georgia on the other?
– Much has been said and written about this in Lithuania. Young people no longer have anything to do with the Soviet era. However, there are some young academics who are sincerely interested in the Soviet Union as an exotic system. They do not mourn at that time, they just wonder how their parents, grandparents lived. Unfortunately, these people have the impression that the Soviet spirit still indirectly influences them today. After all, their parents grew up in the Soviet Union, at a time when many things were lacking and lying was a way of daily life. The order changed and new opportunities arose, these people who grew up in the mediocrity of the Soviet Union turned their heads into extreme materialism. Their goal is to make as much money as possible, to buy as many items as possible, to travel around a world that was previously closed to them. It was in an exaggerated materialistic spirit that they raised their children, the youngsters of today. They tried to give them what they themselves lacked in childhood. As a result, we have a society of “ruthless workers”, where children are financially secure, but the parents are thirsty for attention and are more and more depressed. The greatest passion that the Soviets brought, in my opinion, was the loss of faith in the Lord. As soon, as you take the faith from the person he will turn into a murderer.
– What do you consider the main difference, between the lietuvian authors, who wrote their works in Soviet-era and in modern, free, Lietuva?
– In the Soviet period, especially at the end of it, we really had very talented, genius authors. They were: Sigita Geda, Marcelius Martinaitis, Judita Vaichunaite, Niole Miliauskaite, Romualda Granauskas, Juosa Aputis, Bronius Radziavicius, Jurgis Kunchinas, Bite Willimaite, Richard Gavalivas, this list could have been much longer. In our time, when everyone who is not lazy writes (including one-day TV stars), really valuable books are being written less and less. The paradox is that bookstores are overflown with books but in fact there is nothing valuable to read… Nowadays, I find fewer and fewer books that appeal to my heart or enhance my intellect. So the freedom in which we live actually acts as a swamp: it drags us and sucks our life; We have everything, but we do not want anything … so I do not care about modern Lithuanian literature at all. And if I still read Lithuanian literature, again those old classics. In their texts I find existential depths, sober attention to reality, ways of knowing human spirituality and, most importantly, a sense of language that modern authors have completely lost.
– Fortunately, Lietuva and Georgia are no more the hostiles of political censorship. But every writer has it`s own natural censor, are there any limits for you in literature?
– No, it is just the thing, which is not interesting for me.
– In one of the interviews, you mention that Lietuvian book-shops are full with commercial books, and their literature value is quite suspicious, but these books manage and get some degree of popularity. In your opinion, what are the factors, which construct the taste of readers?
– Television, social networks, oral tradition, pop culture. Probably just like in the rest of the world. Most importantly, Lithuania does not really suffer from a shortage of interesting creators, who create their masterpieces underground. I recently heard that one of the bands has recorded and released a new album, recorded on cassette tapes. On old, high-quality cassettes for what you also need a good old tape recorder to listen to. Why did they do that? Because they spit for advertising. I think in this way they expressed their position towards the consumer. I find such creators inspiring and affirming the belief that not everything in this world is for sale yet.
– For who you write your works? Do you think about the readers, when you are in a process of shaping something new?
– I write about my spiritual sisters and brothers.
– “Breathing into Marble” is tragi-poetic history of one family, where you can find everything: love, betrayal, The unsuccessful attempt of child-adoption, alcoholism, brutality, homicide, the inner conflict of humanity, which of these problems is most harming for modern Lietuva?
– I think this drama is qualitative not only for Lithuanians but for people in general. It is enough to keep an eye on the world, even so called Economically highly developed countries where more sophisticated crimes are committed. Lithuania does not stand out in this respect. The statistics of recent years show that living conditions have improved a lot, and crime has decreased significantly.
– The main protagonist of the book, Izabell, takes important decisions, she tries to adopt a child, who does not have parents. But, at the end, she is not able to get over the resistance of her family and becomes defeated by the difficulties, which is associated with the entrance of new person in family. How do you think, what is the main problem in this Storyline?
– I can not tell you. I write intuitively, spontaneously. In fact, my characters are mysterious, inexplicable to me. I have always believed that readers themselves would tell me what my books are about.
– In 2018 your readers also had the chance of seeing the movie, created after your novel. What do you think about this Movie, Could the director maintain main themes and motives of the original novel?
– Director Giedre Beinorute was able to maintain the atmosphere of the book. This is very important to me. I like the work of the actors. The only thing that “broke my heart” was Melia in the finale of the film. she circulates in a locked aviary — which evokes a sense of hopelessness as it leaves the impression of a prison. In the book it is the opposite: I left Isabelle on the threshold of freedom, I turned her over there, I pushed her there … she just has to take a step.
– Generally, in literature there are many works, which, by their own nature, are cinematographic. What do you think, are your works relevant for this Criteria?
– I am often told that this is so. I myself have never tried to be cinematographic. For me it really does not matter. It just turns out that way.