Flash Interview with Karla Gruodis

Stripped Love (Video installation, 1995) by Karla Gruodis
Photo: Courtesy of the Artist

Interview by Skirmante Ramoskaite.

Q: What does an international stage mean to a Baltic voice? What opportunities does it provide?

KARLA GRUODIS: The international literary stage is very important to Baltic writers right now, as these literatures are still relatively unknown, especially to English readers (Germany, France and Italy have probably published more translations of Lithuanian authors than the UK and other English markets). As a translator I can sense that interest is finally growing, that there is a desire to discover the hidden gems of this literature. This also comes at a time when the Baltic peoples have become fully integrated into the European and global communities, so that in a globalised world the opportunities for writers to reach larger audiences are immense and exciting. There is also a relevant political aspect — given the current geopolitical situation and the continued tensions the Baltics feel in relation to Russia, it is essential that these voices be heard, so that these countries and their people, their cultures, become better known and therefore important to the rest of the world.

Q: What is a modern Baltic fiction woman? Does she relate to the Soviet legacy? What matters are relevant for her?

KG: I would say that it is impossible to pin down what the contemporary Baltic woman fiction writer is, or is interested in, as the answer would be everything! Since the fall of the Soviet Union, Lithuanian women writers have been at the forefront of the process of expanding thematic, genre, and stylistic boundaries in literature. While some have opened up the range of topics dealt with in prose to include material that was neglected in Soviet-era literature (domestic life, maternity, gender identity, female identity and sexuality, menopause and aging), others tackle large-scale historical topics or questions such as (e)migration and displacement, cross-cultural experience and global/cosmopolitan identity. While some writers reference the Soviet period in terms of time or place, and specific experience (there are some powerful works about the deportations), I don’t sense that this is a central theme — not out of some kind of avoidance, but because all sorts of other topics are more relevant today.

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