Garbacik-Balakowicz Magdalena

9/1 Text

Magdalena Garbacik-Balakowicz’s review about Laimonas Briedis’ Vil­ni­us: City of Strang­ers in Reciti

Magdalena Garbacik-Balakowicz's review about Laimonas Briedis' Vil­ni­us: City of Strang­ers has been published in Reciti. The full version of the review can be read on the website of Reciti.

"Vil­ni­us: City of Strang­ers was first pub­lis­hed in 2009, with trans­la­tions into Lit­hu­a­ni­an, Ger­man, Rus­si­an, and Por­tu­gu­ese pub­lis­hed to date. The Eng­lish edi­ti­on was re-published in 2021. The year 2023, when Vil­ni­us, one of Europe’s most cul­t­u­rally comp­lex ca­pi­tals, ce­le­b­ra­tes the 700th an­ni­ver­sary of the city’s fo­und­ing, is a good oc­cas­ion to re­turn to Briedis’s book. Alt­ho­ugh Vil­ni­us: City of Strang­ers fo­cus­es on his­to­ri­cal do­cu­ments, one sho­uld not think of this book as re­se­arch dis­cus­sing the his­to­ry of Vil­ni­us in a tra­di­ti­o­nal way. The book is a cont­ri­bu­ti­on to the field of cul­t­u­ral geo­gra­phy. Brie­dis cho­se to tell the sto­ry of Vil­ni­us from the pers­pec­tive of strang­ers, tho­se who came to Vil­ni­us kno­wing litt­le or noth­ing abo­ut it, more out of for­ced cir­cum­stan­ces than of the­ir own cu­ri­o­sity. Vil­ni­us: City of Strang­ers re­se­ar­ches tra­ve­lo­gues on Vil­ni­us writ­ten over the last se­ven cent­uri­es. The­ir aut­hors are scho­lars, po­li­ti­ci­ans, writers, and sol­di­ers, who spent a lon­ger or shor­ter pe­ri­od of time, som­etimes li­te­rally only a few days, in Vil­ni­us. The aut­hors of the­se tra­ve­lo­gues dif­fer in the lan­gu­a­ges they speak, the­ir backg­round, and so­ci­al sta­tus. They also dif­fer in how they ex­pe­ri­en­ced Vil­ni­us. For some, it was a po­sit­ive con­tact, for ot­hers a ne­ga­tive one.

Brie­dis de­picts Vil­ni­us, which was cont­rol­led by many em­pires du­ring the tur­bu­lent cent­uri­es, as a down­right ma­gi­cal place, sur­roun­ded by po­wer­ful na­tu­re, rush­ing ri­vers, den­se fo­rests, and dang­erous swamps that could only be cros­sed sa­fely in win­ter, when everyth­ing fro­ze over. One of the city’s most pro­mi­nent fea­tu­res is its mul­ti­cul­t­u­ral­ism and mul­ti­l­in­gu­al­ism, and sur­pri­singly Lit­hu­a­ni­an has not been the main lan­gu­age of the city over the co­ur­se of its his­to­ry."