Herkus Kuncius


At a time of limitless supply and a surplus of intellectual products I do not seek to be heard (urbi et orbi) by a yogi or dervish, to be understood by a Papuan, Geisha or some illiterate. Here, and not in Washington or Calcutta, not in Islam or Voodoo, I find the most useful material for my work: unambiguous historical and contemporary events, not infrequently pathological relations between people, delirium, spells, magic and eclipses of the brain repeated every four years. In that sort of context it would be difficult to survive without humour and without irony. These and other ingredients are shaken together to make a cocktail which becomes my short story or novel.

- Herkus Kuncius

Herkus Kunčius is a prose writer, essayist and playwright. Born in Vilnius in 1965, he graduated from the Vilnius Academy of Art, majoring in art history and criticism.

Kunčius relishes provoking literary and Lithuanian conventions. His powerful use of parody, negation and a ribald and slapstick humour has meant that to some people he is the wrecker of Lithuanian literature, while to others he is its most radical exponent.

His first book was published in 1996. Since then he has authored several books and plays which turned Lithuania’s self-understanding inside out. Several of his plays have also been staged by theatres in Lithuania.

Featured Reading Group Title

Nepasigailėti Dušanskio (Don’t Pity Dushansky)

Vilnius: Versus aureus, 2006, 222 pages.

In Almantas Samalavičius’ survey of recent Lithuanian writing, ‘Almost Normal’, he introduces a number of Kuncius’ books, including our featured book:

Herkus Kunčius can be considered one of the foremost conceptual critics of the Soviet period in contemporary Lithuanian fiction. He consciously deconstructs the history of dependence in order to show the impact of its systemic mentality on post-Soviet reality. It is impossible to get rid of history, it is only possible to experience and reconsider it, implies the author. Revisting and reconsidering are especially important to those who never had direct experience of that absurd system. This concept is realised with the help of absurd, grotesque irony, and sometimes postmodern pastiche.

One of the most important texts in this respect is his novel Nepasigailėti Dušanskio (Don’t Pity Dushansky, 2006), in which the author employs a biblical structure to a story about the teachings of a ‘contemporary Christ’ – a communist functionary. Kunčius follows his career from a post-war executioner of anti-Soviet partisans to the highest ranks of the party and, finally, his removal to the margins of social life. The novel is a persistent, insightful and critical revision of Lithuania’s communist past.

And Other Stories Featured Title

Nepasigailėti Dušanskio is featured in the And Other Stories Lithuanian-language Reading Group for Summer 2010.

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