Life should be Transparent
Conversations about Lithuania and Europe in the Twentieth Century and Today
This book of thirteen conversations introduces us to the life of an exceptional person—theatre critic, Germanist, and long-time chair of the Open Lithuania Fund board—Irena Veisaitė. The dialogue between Lithuanian historian Aurimas Švedas and a woman who reflects deeply on her experiences reveals both one individual's historically dramatic life and the fate of Europe and Lithuania in the twentieth century.
Through the complementary lenses of history and memory, we confront with Veisaitė the horrific events of the Holocaust, which brought about the end of the Lithuanian Jewish world. We also meet an array of world-class cultural figures, see fragments of legendary theatre performances, and hear meaningful words that were spoken or heard decades ago.
This book's interlocutors do not so much seek to answer the question "What was it like?" but instead repeatedly ask each other: "What, how, and why do we remember? What is the meaning of our experiences? How can history help us to live in the present and create the future? How do we learn to understand and forgive?"
A series of Veisaitė's texts, statements, and letters, presented at the end of the book suggest further ways of answering these questions.
About the Authors
Aurimas Švedas is an associate professor at the Faculty of History, Vilnius University.
Irena Veisaitė is a Lithuanian Jew and survived the Holocaust. She earned a doctorate in Leningrad in 1963 with a dissertation on the poetry of Heinrich Heine, and was a lecturer at the teacher's college in Vilnius from 1953 to 1997. She has also been head of the Thomas Mann Cultural Centre in Nida, Lithuania. She was awarded the Goethe Medal in 2012 for her contribution to the cultural exchange between Germany and Lithuania.
A German scholar and theatre critic, she has been at the helm of the Open Society Fund for many years.
"Aurimas Švedas has produced what can be called a historical document about one of the few transgenerational and transformative personalities of twentieth-century Lithuania, Irena Veisaitė. Life Should Be Transparent is neither a memoir nor a biography, portraying one of the most intriguing Germanists, theater critics, and pedagogues still alive. In 13 sympathetic interviews, Švedas, the foremost historian of modern Lithuanian culture, has provided a history of twentieth-century Lithuania from the point of view of a frightened young girl maturing through life into an old woman whose memories may soon fade. He gives the reader a remarkable insight into the different epochs she lived through, most notably her survival of the Holocaust and the Soviet occupation. Švedas and Veisaitė are kindred spirits seeking the meaning of life and a way to authenticity."—Journal of Baltic Studies
"Unforgettable scenes of twentieth century Lithuanian history are revealed here—Jewish and Lithuanian interwar Kaunas, the cruel realities of the war and the Holocaust, rescue and rebirth. This important cultural critic's epic story is neither monograph nor textbook, but rather an opportunity to touch the past."—Saulius Sužiedelis
|Central European University Press, an imprint of Central European University Press|
Other Titles in HISTORY / Holocaust
Other Titles in The Holocaust