The unnamed narrator of Jurgis Kuncinas's Tula is our tour guide through the infamous poverty-stricken bohemian quarter of Vilnius known as Uzupis (literally, "beyond the river"), living his life on the fringes of society, including his journeys through various institutions for alcohol treatment. On the way we meet a number of curious inhabitants of this unique district, everyone from a chemistry professor with an exhibitionist problem to the descendant of a 15th-century Lithuanian hetman obsessively carving wooden masks all night long. It's a place where you're likely to encounter people walking both sides of the moral line, where one is just as likely to run into great kindness as unfeeling evil, and where the complex history and mix of cultures that make up the city of Vilnius constantly intrude into the present. But at the very heart of the narrative is the narrator's tragic love for the equally misfit Tula, a love the narrator carries with him, both figuratively and literally, throughout his chaotic existence. The action, which sometimes takes the form of the narrator's fantastic visions of visiting his love in the guise of a bat, includes a hitchhiking trip through Ukraine and Crimea, and takes place over a number of years spanning a good part of the late Soviet era.
Translated by: Elizabeth Novickas
Format/pages: paperback / 232 pages
Publisher: Pica Pica Press