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Vilnius Poker

4.32  ·  Rating Details  ·  341 Ratings  ·  27 Reviews
An assemblage of troubled grotesques struggle to retain identity and humanity in an alternately menacing and mysterious Vilnius, the Lithuanian capital, under Soviet rule in the 1970s and 1980s. The late Gavelis's first translation into English centers on Vytautas Vargalys, a semijustifiably paranoid labor camp survivor who works at a library no one visits while he despera ...more
Hardcover, 498 pages
Published January 15th 2009 by Open Letter (first published 1989)
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Death in Spring by Mercè RodoredaZone by Mathias ÉnardMaidenhair by Mikhail ShishkinHigh Tide by Inga ĀbeleThe Selected Stories by Mercè Rodoreda
Open Letter Books
35th out of 85 books — 30 voters
Dievų miškas by Balys SruogaAltorių šešėly by Vincas Mykolaitis-PutinasBalta drobulė by Antanas ŠkėmaGyvenimas po klevu by Romualdas GranauskasTūla by Jurgis Kunčinas
Best Lithuanian Books
16th out of 87 books — 37 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 912)
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Feb 17, 2009 zan rated it it was amazing
Shelves: recent-favorites
I was afraid I'd have to like this because it was from Lithuania. I'd plow my way through, then give it five stars just because it's Baltic literature. But, hang on, what's this? - it's excellent. And cryptic. And surreal. Elements of Kafka, Joyce, and Pelevin.

At times it felt excessively philosophical for my tastes, but if you're going to be the one book in English to represent Lithuanian literary culture (so far?), you want to be a bit philosophical.

This was one of those books that required
Nov 26, 2010 Emily added it
Shelves: read-in-2010
Although I was engaged and rewarded almost constantly by Ričardas Gavelis's Vilnius Poker (translated by Elizabeth Novickas), I know the book is not for everyone. In particular Vytautas Vargalys, its delusional, pathologically misogynist labor-camp survivor protagonist whose PTSD-spurred paranoia presents him with a nameless group of nameless but italicized Them lurking around every corner, makes a challenging companion throughout the first 300 pages of the book. There is, undeniably, darkness a ...more

It's altogether so incredibly frustrating that I'm not sure how to start describing it. And I couldn't possibly give it a rating! God no!

As for plot summary, well, that's impossible. But basically, there's a group of people, some friends in Vilnius in the mid-late Soviet period, working at a library. The most important character among them is a paranoid, delusional gulag survivor. There are a bunch of other tragic genius men and a lot of women who get trampled. Or maybe not; I don't k
Dec 22, 2015 Marcelė rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lithuanian
Kol skaičiau, mintyse krebždėjo šimtai dalykų, kuriuos norėjau išsakyti. Bet vos tik perskaičiau, supratau, kad nebegaliu išspausti anei žodžio - tarsi paskutinį syk užversdama knygos viršelį, užverčiau ir savo mintis. Akimirkai pasaulis tikrai sustojo - tik ir aš pati sustingau. Gal kur netoliese Vargalys stebi į mano pražiotos burnos ertmę, tikėdamasis išgirsti mano užstrigusį žodį..?
Jacquelyn Mcshulskis
Dec 13, 2009 Jacquelyn Mcshulskis rated it it was amazing
I've read few translations (from various languages to English) that possess so much of what I assume is the author's original rhythms, attitude and texture. A fan of Vilnius, of Lithuania, and of the Lithuanian language and story, I am grateful to the translator, Elizabeth Novickas, for her care and brilliance in bringing this novel to English-speaking readers.
Feb 24, 2014 Richard rated it it was ok
A very interesting insight into the Lithuanian mindset, and not easy going as a result. The change of narrative was nicely executed, and was neatly used to emphasis the troubled mindset of the main protagonist. Not necessarily enjoyable, but interesting.
Jan 18, 2016 Evelina rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
/ Kiek paukščių gali tilpti viename sapne ? /
Povilas Vibrantis
Apr 09, 2015 Povilas Vibrantis rated it it was amazing
One of the favorite books of Lithuanian writers.
A lot of truth spoken, cannot stop wondering how Soviet government let it to be printed. The book criticise them at a very high level. A lot of insights about Lithuania and our history, even theories about a branch of human race - Homo Lituanicus that I've never thought about before. I believe it's a must-read for every Lithuanian, especially the new generation so they can understand how the things were 20 years before.
Another thing I really love
Megin V
Apr 06, 2011 Megin V rated it it was amazing
This book is incredible. I have read it over and over again and have always found something new within the text. My only critique is that the english translation loses some of the mystere and leaves less to the imagination than the original Lithuanian piece. Nevertheless, its dirty, depressing, haunting, and it stays in your mind for awhile. I never will look at pidgeons the same.
May 21, 2012 Will rated it it was amazing
Fantastic book, filled with quotable quotes, creates a paranoid universe of "Us vs. Them" that you can't help but start to understand...and start to feel a little paranoid yourself.
Lazare Bruyant
Jun 17, 2015 Lazare Bruyant rated it really liked it
Chronique de « Vilnius Poker » sur le Fric Frac Club :
Jan 31, 2010 Andrew rated it liked it
Shelves: lithuanian
Soviet desolation, crass sexuality, Kafka-worship and hopelessness... if you have the stomach for nihilism by all means read this book.
Clark Hulse
Mar 20, 2016 Clark Hulse rated it it was amazing
A little-known masterpiece, a work of hallucinatory magical realism set in Vilnius during the Soviet era.
May 08, 2015 Hannah rated it it was ok
I would say this is about on par with the Master and Margarita, but this one messes with your brain more.
Linas Klimaitis
Mar 31, 2015 Linas Klimaitis rated it it was amazing
I'd love to completely forget about it, just so I could reread it again, and again, and again.
Jan 07, 2012 Vincent rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
A strange masterpiece. I couldn't stop reading it and I was sad when it ended.
Dec 22, 2010 Cody rated it really liked it
four narrators (one of them is a dog, cool) and cold and gray and bleak. prose teeters on that feeling where you aren't sure if you are going to puke or not but you keep swaing back and forth over the toilet, oh my god you want to die so bad. read this book and then when you die and come back you can read it again

The live skeleton crawls on all fours through the pen and nibbles at the grass. The skeleton of a tall man with a toothless mouth and bloody gums rips out a dried-up clump and slowly
Dec 18, 2011 Lucas rated it it was amazing
This is a big, beautiful mess of a novel. Just what I was in the mood for. It's divided into four sections, each with a different narrator. The first one takes up 300 of the book's 500 pages and spends all of that time building up a lot of expectations and impressions that it will then proceed to knock down. And I mean that in the best way. The narrator of the first section and the protagonist of Vilnius Poker, Vytautus Vargalys, can be a bit of a boor. One minute he is offering up tired cliches ...more
“On days like that, the lightest things weigh more than the heaviest, and compasses show directions for which there are no names”

I read this book to page 167 before giving up. I loved the bleak, lyrical lunacy of the narrator, the deep, cheap, beautiful eroticism, the echoes of the family, camp and town that have slowly undone his mind… however, 167 pages is quite enough of it, and the story seems to be going nowhere; his paranoia shifts and grows like a tide coming in and out, and there is, see
Jul 25, 2009 Robb added it
Shelves: novel, fiction
To be, for once, succinct, I was not at all ready for this book. Vilnius Poker is a deep, difficult read that I will absolutely return to. For whatever reason, however, I couldn’t muster the focus the writing demands of the reader. Realizing this, I set it aside and will try again at some point down the road.

That said, even though I struggled with it, I knew I was reading, or trying to read, something very special. Gavelis’ writing is, in a word, stunning. It is also packed with big, huge, treme
Skaiste Pilipūnaitė
Mar 13, 2014 Skaiste Pilipūnaitė rated it it was amazing
Mind blowing. :)
Aug 17, 2010 Mark rated it really liked it
incredible, thoughtful in its attention to imagery, and wild in its application of ideas.

not difficult at all if you just settle in with it.
there is a long section of paranoia in there, but it fits the claustrophobia of the character's rationalizing.
but, it does go somewhere special by the end.

don't want to give anything away.

completely worth reading.

Thomas Bernardin
Dec 07, 2015 Thomas Bernardin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
D'après l'éditeur français : "C'est le livre de toutes les grandes capitales modernes dévorées par l'apathie et la tentation de l'oubli. C'est le portrait d'un peuple dépouillé de son histoire. C'est Dostoïevski. C'est Kafka et Burroughs. C'est Kundera. C'est un piège". C'est un peu de tout cela mais c'est surtout Beckett. C'est Molloy. Et c'est Orwell. Envoutant.
May 26, 2013 Dan rated it did not like it
Stopped after about 20 pages when I realized I don't need to read any more long novels with paranoid misogynist narrators. An unfortunate waste of one of Open Letter's great early hard-bound covers.
May 18, 2016 nelisijusailis rated it liked it
few words - šūdas ,viskas šūdas
Jun 19, 2012 Paulina rated it really liked it
kiek paukščių telpa viename sapne?
Asta Skeberdytė
Asta Skeberdytė marked it as to-read
Jun 26, 2016
Austėja Serbentaitė
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Jun 24, 2016
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Ričardas Gavelis – prozininkas, dramaturgas, eseistas, griežčiausias totalitarizmo kritikas lietuvių literatūroje, dažnai vadinamas pagrindinės savo metaforos – Vilniaus kaip Visatos subinės – kūrėju. Tyrinėjo lietuviško mentaliteto deformacijas, demaskavo ideologijų poveikį asmenybei.

1968 metais baigė Druskininkų vidurinę mokyklą. Studijavo Vilniaus Universitete ir gavo fiziko teoretiko diplomą.
More about Ričardas Gavelis...

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“Laikrodis rodo antrą valandą dienos,be galo noriu pamažu numirti. Kad kas žinotų,koks aš vienas!” 3 likes
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