Roses and Potatoes
By the winner of the Venice Biennale Golden Lion Award 2019.
The main theme of the bilingual (Lithuanian and English) collage novel “Roses and Potatoes” is happiness. But the author Vaiva Grainytė examines this phenomenon from a different perspective than normal – intellectually and ironically, playfully and phantasmagorically deconstructing the stereotypical concept of happiness embedded in contemporary culture.
In a world which has ground to a halt due to the pandemic, the novel’s main protagonists and allegorical figures each seek happiness, or reflect on it or affirm it, in their own particular way: Davis in Canada, agonising over his articles, Vika living in isolation, brothers connected by calculations and genetic tests, a woman suffering from cancer, a mouse searching for a morsel to eat, an owl disregarding ancient theories of warmth, a virus looking for a more spacious place to live, and Denmark nominated as one of the happiest countries of the world.
The fragments of the characters’ everyday lives – letters, dreams, diary extracts, social media posts, alter ego passages – are all creatively combined with the rhetoric of essays and articles, and with topical issues, and juxtaposed with cultural and historical intertexts and knowledge of sociology, psychology, zoology, and phrenology. All this intrigue – a surrealist mosaic of miniatures of happiness – is permeated by themes on the fringes of melancholy: loneliness, burnout, forebodings of disaster, the diktat of conventional norms, and the longing for closeness.
Vaiva Grainytė (born 1984) is a writer, poet, playwright, recipient of the Lithuanian National Prize for Culture and Art, and, with her co-authors, winner in 2019 of the Golden Lion of the Venice Biennale of Contemporary Art for the opera-performance “Sun and Sea”. Her books – the book of essays “Beijing Diaries” (2012) and the poetry collection “Gorilla Archives” (2019) – were nominated for Book of the Year and included in the twelve most creative books of the year. The author’s work has been translated into more than ten languages.
Translated by: Karla Gruodis
Format/pages: paperback / 324 pages
Publisher: Baltos lankos