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A Lithuanian Classic: Music & Words for White Shroud with MEROPE

April 16 @ 6:30 pm - 8:00 pm

Free – £10.95

Join us for an evening of music and words in celebration of cult Lithuanian novel WHITE SHROUD by Antanas Škėma, Lithuanian avant-guarde writer from the mid-20th century.

in collaboration with

Lithuanian Art & Culture in the UK


Vagabond Voices

Ask any well-read Lithuanian who completed high school after 2002 which work of literature they remember best from their studies and you are almost guaranteed to hear: “Antanas Škėma’s White Shroud – that’s my favourite novel!”

Golden Hare Books is delighted to be taking part in a special series of events in Edinburgh, Glasgow and London celebrating the cult classic piece of literature by Antanas Škėma, White Shroud. At this FREE event, discover this modern classic – originally published as Balta drobulė in 1958 – newly translated by Karla Gruodis and published by Glasgow independent publisher Vagabond Voices. This is a unique opportunity to hear words and music highlighting an important piece of 20th century literature.

In White Shroud,  Škėma’s multiple narratives and voices compose the stream-of-consciousness story of an émigré poet working as an elevator operator in a large New York hotel during the mid-1950s. At this event, this polyphony of voices will be reflected and interpreted by the talented musicians Indrė Jurgelevičiūtė and Bert Cools from the band MEROPE, who promise to put you in a kind of trance. Listen as boundaries between the here and now and there and then start to blur, revoking the melancholic existential context of the exile literature.

Tickets to this event are free but booking is essential. You may also reserve a copy of the book in advance which will be available to collect on the evening of the event. Wine will be served and books will be sold! Limited edition postcards designed by artist and fashion designer Elena Guchas will also be exhibited.

“It’s amazing how current this novel still feels. Škėma can be ironic and sarcastic, but also existentially serious and even sentimental. This novel is no simple singalong tune, but rather a highly polyphonic symphony; indeed, a polyphony that is a pleasure to experience.”

Jochen Schimmang, TAZ (progressive Berlin daily)


White Shroud (Balta drobulė, 1958) is considered by many as the most important work of modernist fiction in Lithuanian. Drawing heavily on the author’s own refugee and immigrant experience, this psychological, stream-of-consciousness work tells the story of an émigré poet working as an elevator operator in a large New York hotel during the mid-1950s. Using multiple narrative voices and streams, the novel moves through sharply contrasting settings and stages in the narrator’s life in Lithuania before and during World War II, returning always to New York and the recent immigrant’s struggle to adapt to a completely different, and indifferent, modern world. Strong characters and evocative utterances convey how historical context shapes language and consciousness, breaking down any stable sense of self.

As in other major modernist works, Škėma uses language and allusion to destabilise. Narrative, voice and language shift continuously, capturing the anti-hero’s psychological and cultural disorientation — the complexity of experience in a modern world where, in Yeats’ words, “the centre cannot hold.” Like the author’s, Garšva’s frame of reference is vast — quotes from French arias, Kafka and American culture collide with visceral memories of archaic Lithuanian folk song. Garšva’s use of poignant and comical émigré slang in his interactions captures the ironies and absurdities of the immigrant’s situation. By the end of the novel, further grammatical and linguistic disarray mirrors the final unravelling of Garšva’s mind as he descends into madness.

Like all powerful fiction, this novel draws the reader into an intimate, culturally and historically specific world to explore universal human themes of selfhood, alienation, creativity and cultural difference. This English translation promises to appeal to various audiences: readers of modernist and world literature, scholars of Baltic literature and refugee studies, and members of the Lithuanian diaspora unable to access this novel in Lithuanian. Written from the perspective of a newcomer to an Anglophone country, White Shroud encourages readers to better understand the complexities of immigrant life.


Antanas Škėma was born in Łódź, Poland in 1910 to Lithuanian parents. He and his family lived in Russia during the First World War, and in 1921 returned to Lithuania. He studied law and medicine at university before switching to theatre in 1935. He experienced the first Russian invasion in 1938, the German occupation in 1941 and the return of Russian troops in 1945. Having fled to Germany to avoid the resumption of the Soviet regime, he survived in the wretched conditions of Displaced Persons Camps until he was allowed to emigrate to America in 1949. There he became a prolific stage actor and director, heavily involved in the émigré arts scene until his fatal car accident in 1961. White Shroud(completed in 1954), whose original Lithuanian version was published in London in 1958, is now considered a modern classic, famous for its unconventional style.


Karla Gruodis is a translator, editor and artist based in Vilnius, where she founded and edited Lithuania’s first English-language newspaper, The Lithuanian Review, in 1990. She is the editor and author of Feminist Excursus: The Concept of Woman from Antiquity to Postmodernism(Pradai, 1995), and was active in the post-Soviet Lithuanian women’s movement. Her translations include Leonidas Donskis’s A Small Map of Experience: Aphorisms and Reflections (Guernica, 2013), Antanas Škėma’s White Shroud (Vagabond Voices, 2018), Sigitas Parulskis’s Darkness and Company (Peter Owen, 2018), and regular contributions to the online literary journal Vilnius Review.


Indrė Jurgelevičiūtė is a Lithuanian kankles (zither) player and singer. Her music combines the traditions of her native land and the sounds of various cultures and contemporary styles. The quiet minimalism of Lithuanian folklore and creative improvisation of Indrė’s music opened possibilities for successful international projects, including the folk indie band Merope and award winning duo ‘Solo & Indrė’ with Senegalese kora master Solo Cissokho. In Belgium Indrė is involved in alternative jazz projects “Book of Air: ‘Fieldtone and vvolk’, and her work is represented by the art platform ‘granvat’. Recently Indrė joined the international early music ensemble ”Ratas del viejo Mundo” leaded by lute player Floris de Rycker. As a creative and versatile performer Indrė can often be seen in jazz, folk, classical, choral, contemporary and alternative music festivals, playing as a solo artist or with different ensembles, and caught in the whirlwind of new ideas.

Bert Cools is a guitar player and sound artist from Antwerp, Belgium, mainly active in the improvisation and electronic music scene of Europe. He plays as a solo artist, composes for his own bands: Merope, Hoera, Book of Air: vvolk and Fieldtone, also works with theater and multimedia projects. In 2010 he got Erasmus Jazz prize as the best musician from Codarts, Rotterdam. In 2011 together with his brother Stijn Cools he created the art platform granvat.com. With ‘granvat’ Bert found a unique space in the art world, ranging from folk and jazz to more cutting edge electronic music, producing various releases and events worldwide.


April 16
6:30 pm - 8:00 pm
Free – £10.95
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Golden Hare Books
68 St Stephen Street
Edinburgh, Edinburgh EH3 5AQ United Kingdom
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0131 629 1396

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