This website is part of UNESCO's "Publica" series.
One of UNESCO's main goals is to promote access to information in the public domain to make this rich public property accessible to all. The new communication and information technologies allow global access to this information. Within the framework of this strategy, UNESCO has created the "Publica" series, which includes a virtual library of classic works of world literature. The collections of digitized texts on this site are free-of-charge. Anthology of the Lithuanian classic literature covers 64 masterpieces of Lithuanian authors from the oldest documents up to the nowadays.
Early period (up to the end of the XIX century)
by Prof. Juozapas Girdzijauskas
The Letters of Gediminas, the Great Duke of Lithuania, the Great Duke of Lithuania written in Latin in 1323-1324 are the oldest monuments of Lithuanian writs. They allow us to make conclusions about political, economical and cultural situation of Great Duchy of Lithuania at the beginning of the 14th century. These letters are also significant as examples of Medieval epistolic art.
The ideas of early Renaissance and humanism that were commonly expressed in Latin language, in Lithuania are represented by Mikalojus Husovianas (Nicolaus Hussovianus). His work "The Song About Bison, Its Stature, Ferocity and Hunt" (De statura feritate ac venatione bisontis carmen), printed in Kraków in 1523, is a prominent example of the Renaissance epic poetry in Latin..
Martynas Mažvydas represents the stage of late Renaissance connected with Reformation, when publication of books in national languages began. The first printed book in Lithuanian language, "The Simple Words of Catechism",. was published in Königsberg in 1547. Its preface, "The Appeal of the Small Book Itself Unto Lithuanians and Samogitians", is the first original verse in Lithuanian. This work is of great historical and literary value and is the initial source of all Lithuanian poetry.
The Counterreformation began in Lithuania in the seventies of the 16th century as a reaction to the Reformation. One of the most prominent activists of the Counterreformation was the Bishop of Samogitia Merkelis Giedraitis who sponsored the printing of the first Lithuanian books in the Great Duchy of Lithuania. These books were edited by Mikalojus Daukša. In 1595 his translation of the Spanish Jesuit Jacob Ledesma book "The Catechism" was printed in Vilnius, and in 1599 - a translation of "Postilla" by Polish author Jacob Wójek. Of special significance is "The Preface Unto Benevolent Reader" written in Polish for "Postilla", based on the distinctive for Renaissance concept of nation and language, which supports the civic and cultural rights of vernacular and advocates to turn Lithuanian into a state language.
The epoch of Baroque is represented by Motiejus Kazimieras Sarbievijus (Mathias Casimirus Sarbievius) - one of the most honored in Europe poets writing in Latin. He was crowned with laurels by Pope Urban VIII. A significant part of his poetry is closely related to Lithuania.
The process of development of the old Lithuanian literature (14th - 18th centuries) ends with Kristijonas Donelaitis, one of the most prominent authors of the Age of Enlightenment. His poem "The Seasons" (written about 1760-1770, first edition 1818) is a national epos and is a cornerstone of Lithuanian fiction literature.
The Lithuanian Pre romanticism is best represented by the professor of Königsberg University Liudvikas Rėza (Martin Ludwig Rhesa), whose major merits were publication of K. Donelaitis works an of the first selection of Lithuanian folklore (songs). His essays included into editions of K. Donelaitis’s "The Seasons" (1818) and of "The Songs" (1825) elevate spiritual culture of Lithuanian nation into the level of European culture.
The Romanticism in Lithuania was mostly inspired by Adomas Mickevičius (Adam Mickiewicz), the most prominent representative of the Vilnius school of romanticism who wrote in Polish and considered Lithuania as his motherland, but made clear distinction between the real (Lithuanian speaking) Lithuanian nation and the denationalized (mostly polonized) part of it. The attitude of A. Mickevičius towards the "real" Lithuanian nation is best exposed in his reference about L. Rėza and K. Donelaitis, in the foreword of the poem "Konradas Valenrodas" and in the lecture about Lithuania at Collčge de France. His handwritten fragments of Lithuanian songs conform with this.
Lithuanian literature of the first half of the 19th century with its mix of Classicism, Sentimentalism, and Romanticism features is represented by Antanas Strazdas, Dionizas Poška, Silvestras Valiūnas, Simonas Stanevičius, Simonas Daukantas.
Antanas Baranauskas with his poem "The Forest of Anykščiai" (1858-1859) is the first prominent representative of Lithuanian Romanticism. He advanced the domination of this trend in Lithuanian literature of the end of the 19th century, especially in the poetry of Maironis.
Motiejus Valančius is the most famous representative of the Lithuanian didactic prose. His tale "Juzė from Palanga" (printed in 1869) and other works prepared the ground for the realistic prose of the end of 19th century - the works of Žemaitė, Lazdynų Pelėda and others.
Jonas Basanavičius is the most prominent person of Lithuanian national revival at the end of 19th century who gained the title of "the Patriarch of the Nation". In his Preface of the first issue of "Aušra" newspaper J. Basanavičius sets forth a programme of national activity based on a romantic outlook.
Jonas Gaidamavičius’s Preface of the first issue of "Varpas" newspaper represents the positivistic tend of activities of the so called "varpininkai".
Vincas Kudirka is a most famous publicist of the end of 19th century. He established and edited "Varpas", whose articles formed a positivistic trend in Lithuanian culture. V. Kudirka wrote "The National Song" that became an anthem of the Republic of Lithuania; his verses and satires belong to the classical works of Lithuanian literature. The poetry of Pranas Vaičaitis is closely related with the ideas of V. Kudirka.XX century Literature
by Prof. Viktorija Daujotytė
Žemaitė (Julija Beniuševičiūtė-Žymantienė) had strengthened the trend of social realism, ethnic features (Samogitian), and realistic method of narration in Lithuanian prose.
Jonas Biliūnas is a writer of psychological realism, the author of novels of European type, lyrical narrator, and creator of moral visions.
Psychological realism also is represented by Šatrijos Ragana (Marija Pečkauskaitė), initiator of confidential prose in Lithuanian literature, who strengthened personal self-expression, feminine versions of being, Christian values, and the style of diary and notes in literature.
Ignas Šeinius (Jurkūnas) is a champion of modernization and revival of literature, a creator of modern prose, representative of impressionism, writer of fragmented, vibrating, melodic style who also endeavored paradox and grotesque style.
Juozas Tumas-Vaižgantas is a synthesizer of realism and romantic idealism, a creator of Lithuanian national ideology, an author of panoramic epic novel, who had strengthened the distinction and national self-consciousness of Lithuanians, creator of "body language".
Vincas Krėvė (Mickevičius) is a creator of universal range, who combined the realistic particularities and romantic sprout, who consolidated the wisdom of his own people and of the East, an interpreter of the Bible, initiator of the literary folklorism, a writer of wide stylistic amplitude.
Antanas Vienuolis (Žukauskas) is an innovator of Lithuanian epic narration, author of romantic legends, historical and social novels, and of artful psychological stories, a writer of open sensuality with a subtle sense of the sentence.
Jurgis Savickis is an individualistic writer, who sought to make the fiction free from ideology, who radically modernized Lithuanian prose and its themes, problems, and style; creator of irony, mask and paradox in Lithuanian literature; the vanguardist.
Vincas Mykolaitis-Putinas is an autoreflexive narrator of philosophical outlook, the writer of symbolist forms and realistic psychological generalizations, an author of the first Lithuanian psychological intellectual novel, a creator of philosophical lyrics. Also a literary critic, historian and esthetic.
Balys Sruoga is a poet, prose and play writer, historian and critic of the theater. An innovator of Lithuanian lyrical tradition, creator of impressionist poetics. An author of historical plays. A prisoner of nazi concentration camp Stutthoff, author of original book about his experiences there.
Jurgis Baltrušaitis is a bilingual writer of philosophic symbolist trend, who wrote in Russian and Lithuanian languages, a prominent figure of Russian symbolism, translator of modern Western authors. He made impact to the Lithuanian poetry after Maironis. A creator of archaized Lithuanian poetic language.
Bernardas Brazdžionis is a modern neoromantic, a poet or oratorical engaged trend, who blends the folklore experience with cultural and biblical associations, and combines syllabo-tonical versification with blank verse in his poetry.
Jonas Aistis (Aleksandravičius) is one of the most prominent Lithuanian poets who combines the intimate lyrical talking with strict poetical programme; he expressed the ideals of neoromantic generation; in the latest stage of his creative life he engaged himself strongly for Lithuania and national idea. A creator of elegiac, melodic verses.
Kazys Binkis is the first vanguardist in Lithuanian literature who went all the way from the traditional verse to the shocking futurist expressionist stylistics and back to the tradition. A creator of verses, folklore poems, and plays.
Antanas Miškinis is a poet of modern neoromantic style, whose programme sought to blend the poetical and spoken languages, who conversed the folklore tradition into literary culture, blended the melodic experience with vanguardist poetics.
Ieva Simonaitytė is a writer from Klaipėda district, regionalist and autodidactic. A writer of autobiographic tales and novels, she depicted everyday life and exceptional destinies of "lietuvninkai" - Lithuanians from Lithuania Minor.
Antanas Vaičiulaitis is a psychologist writer who was oriented towards "the magical realism" and implored for the universal spirituality. A lyricist of love, subtly ironical prose writer. An erudite with one of the best styles among Lithuanian writers.
Petras Cvirka is a realistic writer of social orientation, a master of colourful word. An author of psychological social, satirical and folklore novels, stories; also a children writer.
Salomėja Nėris (Bačinskaitė-Bučienė) - is a most prominent Lithuanian lyricist who lived through harsh existential experiences. She was a poet of romantic outlook who renewed a tradition of melodious verse, poetical experience of nature, the ties with the folklore, and perfected Lithuanian lyrical miniature.
Vytautas Mačernis is a poet who died young, a member of anthology "The Earth". His verses are of tragic premonition and also of philosophical peacefulness. He was a poet of strong visionary imagination, who sought to renew the forms of poetry.
Henrikas Radauskas is a poet of individual poetical outlook, esthete and constructivist of form. He conceals his despair under the mask of irony. He wielded together the experience of neoromantics and vanguardists, created his verse as a hermetic and autonomous structure, kept to the requirements of versification.
Kazys Boruta was a narrator of rebel spiritual nature, anticonformist in his life and works. A writer of expressionist, energetic verse, author of innovative folklore novels. A versificator of Lithuanian folk tales, author of travel books and humorous stories.
Juozas Grušas is an author of stories on existential topics and plays of various types. He wrote according to the tragic and tragicomic principle. Characteristic of his works are moral problems and moral self-consciousness. In his style he blended the constructive form and the power of generalization.
Algimantas Mackus is a poet from Lithuanian emigration, representative of "earthless" and "unadorned speech" generation. A creator of modern poetics, who sought for internal zeal. An openly dramatic author with dominating theme of death.
Henrikas Nagys is a member of "The Earth" anthology and a critic in "Literary meadows" journal. He modernized the poetical tradition of folklore, described the dramatic situation of a poet in emigration. Nature takes a significant place in the expressively contrasted picture of his verse.
Paulius Širvys is a most talented poet of the post-war period who transformed his experience of orphan and soldier into the naturally melodic form of verse; he renewed the traditional metaphors of nature and kept to the principle of lyrical self-expression.
Janina Degutytė is a romantic maximalist among the new Lithuanian poets. She continued and modified the tradition of melodic lyrics of Salomėja Nėris. A creator of lyrics about nature and of miniatures on the themes of nature.
Antanas Škėma is a prominent author of Lithuanian emigration, a narrator of modern prose and plays. His specific poetics wielded together the techniques of expressionism, surrealism and "the flow of consciousness". The rhythm of his narration is very distinct, and it corresponds with the pace of the big city.
Marius Katiliškis is a writer who keeps to the realistic principle of representation. Being in emigration, he reproduced the landscape, people and their ways of speaking of Northern Lithuania. Characteristic to his prose are solid texture of depiction, materiality, associations of sensitive experiences. Continuator and moderniser of Lithuanian epic tradition, a writer of big suggestive force.
Vincas Ramonas is an emigration prose writer of modern stylistics, who beseeched to blend modernism and human spirituality. His works are based on knowledge of Suvalkija (south west part of Lithuania) people and realities; he also absorbed the mentality of the city and baudelairian elements.
Bronius Radzevičius is one of the most prominent Lithuanian prose writers of the eighth decade who had an extreme feeling of life and sought for wholeness. In his works the frankness of the diary type blends with philosophical generalizations. The creator of Lithuanian rustic existentialism, original stylist and a master of a sentence.
Antanas Ramonas is a prose writer of the ninth decade, an "inner emigrant" close to Radzevičius. A narrator of elegic, nostalgic, stylistically consistent and congruous prose.
Antanas Kalanavičius is a poet of the eighth and ninth decades who kept aside and did not participate in the literary life for a long time. A subtle lyricist with strong inner experience, especially of the nature, a creator of the particular poetic language.
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