Some Unfinished Business by Antanas Sileika
Photo credit: Irmantas Gelunas
Antanas Sileika-one of the most acknowledged prose writers of Lithuanian descent in the world-is also well-known for his outsizd sense of humour. His second book, (Sileika has written five), Buying On Time (1997), is a collecton of short stories that follows the lives of a family of immigrants to a suburb in Canada between the 1950s and the 1970s; the book wasa nominated for both the City of Toronto Book Award and the Stephen Leacock Award for Humour, and was serialized on CBC Radio’s Between the Covers.
His interest in Lithuanian nonfiction, which he will speak about as a guest at Creative Aging Books & Ideas, (which is a part of Art Your Service, an Online Community for Older Adults, www.artyourservice.org), on March 30th, 2 p.m. was fueled by Sileika’s mother who bought him a book at a parish bazar tht was a memoir by Lithuanis’s most prominent interwar sculptor.
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It was the best quarter Sileika’s mother would ever spend on her son, one that ignited his desire to explore and eventually produce some storytelling masterpieces around the struggles Lithuania, his country of ancestry, has endured.
Sileika will also share his coming-of-age experiences and adventures around living in Paris, where he was an English-language teacher; being a member of the editorial board of Paris Voices magazine; his time as the co-editor of Descant, a Canadian literary journal; as well as some of his experiences with fellow authors who taught alongside him while he was the director at the Humber School for Writers.
Released in February of 2023, Sileika’s newest book, Some Unfinished Business, (Cormorant Books), which he will also discuss on March 30th, is a stunning story wrapped in the raw emotions of everyday individuals whose bravery courage and determination transform them into estraordinary characters.
Martin Averka, the fourteen-year-old narrator in Some Unfinished Business, is sent by the powers-that-be to rescue Kostas Kubilinskas, a 1950s children’s writer, who had shot a man in the head to please his KGB masters. It is Averka’s job to recuse Kostas from the Pazaislis Monastery Asylum located in the Soviet Socialist Republic of Lithuania. As he slips into this place of worship, Averka is surrounded by:
“The milling crowd of saints and sinners peering down from the fescoes in the dome of the church [which] tended to frighten any patients who appeared below. Even a healthy mind might have trouble with this kind of divine display and scrunity. If the uneasy souls below had demons in them, those devils became uneasy and began to squirm, precipitating tremors in some and shrieks of fear and rage in others.”
Not only were his surroundings intimadting, Kostas, who was once esteemed and respected, was such a hard core drinker that “his liver was expected to explode at any moment.”
Set in the small village of Lyn Lake, Averka is a staunch supporter of the anti-Soviet resistance in occupied Lithunania, eventually being imprisoned in the Gulag, as he pines for the love of a cherished woman while seeking revenge for the man who encouraged him to dream.
When asked why he is so dedicated to telling the stories of his generational countrymen, Sileika says: “To people who live here, [Lithuania} these types of stories are not really anything exceptional. They are the stories people heard from their parents or grandparents. But I was not here in Lithuania to hear them, so these stories never became normal to me.”
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