“The world behind windows was spinning, roaring, dissolving, grinning its teeth and shining while I felt Tūla’s bosom in my palm – under thin threads a bird’s heart was beating.“
Tūla is one of the most important Lithuanian novels of the post-Soviet period. Lithuanians refer to it as the favorite book of Lithuanian students, while critics label it as the novel which introduced elements of “spontaneous” narrative and sensuality to modern Lithuanian prose. Tūla follows the bohemian lifestyle of an unnamed storyteller during the final years of the Soviet period. He is our guide through Užupis, one of the poorest, but also most prominent neighborhoods of Vilnius, its bohemian heart. The storyteller meets numerous colorful characters from both sides of the moral spectrum. While wandering through old streets of Vilnius, he is drinking, wasting time and remembering the week he spent with an art student Tūla because memories are the only constants in the life of this vagabond and intellectual living on the edges of society, which includes time spent in institutions for treatment of alcoholics.
The narrative’s very core is a tragic love between the storyteller and Tūla, a love he carries with him, figuratively and literally, through his chaotic existence. At the same time, Tūla is an ode to Vilnius and a critique and social commentary of life and regime during Lithuania’s Soviet period in which this intellectual, like many others then, could not find his place.
Since its publishing in 1993, Kuncinas’ novel, prose spoken by a poet, became a modern classic of Lithuanian literature.