Vytautas V. Landsbergis is one of Lithuania’s leading authors of children’s books in addition to being a screenplay author and film and theatre director. He was born in Vilnius in 1962 and studied philology in his native town as well as directing in Tbilisi, Georgia. On completing his studies, during which time he met the avantgarde director Jonas Mekas in New York and worked with Krzysztof Kieślowski in Poland, he founded a production company and has since made over twenty documentaries and fictional dramas. As an author of children’s books he has published – to great acclaim – prose, poetry and plays, which he has adapted for the stage in Lithuania.
Landsbergis belongs to a generation of young writers from the Baltic states who are confident enough of a child’s intellectual ability to adopt an experimental method of narration rather than a teacherly stance. Literature professor Kestutis Urba commented: »Landsbergis established a new current in Lithuanian children’s literature with his unusual combination of nonsense puns and absurd wordplay with old-fashioned language and clichés from folklore.« Full of humour, and reflection, Landsbergis speaks, in his lyrical work, of timeless values such as friendship, faith and luck with a sense of a religious dimension. His fable-like characters sally forth dynamically – regardless of whether they are humans, animals, angels or supposedly inanimate everyday objects – to pursue adventures in a poetic universe. Yet he never loses sight of the horizons of childhood experience.
In his volume of short stories »Obuolių Pasakos« (1999; t: Apple Tales) Landsbergis presents a curious and bizarre fairytale spun around two friends who are apples, Anton and Peter, who embark on a journey across time, starting with Adam and Eve, across the Middle Ages until Armageddon. He also skillfully depicts various characters such as Vytautas the Great, the sparrow Alyosha, the potato general Karolina and Xenophobia the fox. Among Landsbergis’ most well known works is »Arklio Dominyko Meilė« (2004; t: Dominykas, the horse in love): Dominykas, a wild white horse, falls in love with a coy cornflower. When the approaching winter threatens to freeze her, he hides his beloved under a protective stone and sets out for Africa in search of her relatives. After an ill-advised trip during which Dominykas encounters a white bear, a crocodile and a hippopotamus, the wild horse returns to the freshly blossomed cornflower. Central themes of the text are love, care and the eternal cycle of the cosmos – personified by the figures of the wild horse and the cornflower, whose incompatibility results in a particular kind of literary tension.
Landsbergis has received numerous distinctions for his poetic children’s books. The volume of short stories »Rudnosiuko istorijos« (1994; t: Tales of the little brown-nosed bear) was named best Lithuanian children’s book of the year in 1995 while »Arklio Dominyko Meilė«, translated into Swedish, was granted entry to the White Ravens Catalogue (2005) of the International Youth Library in Munich and included on the IBBY Honours List (2006). Landsbergis, married with five children, lives in Vilnius.
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