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The Ballads of Kukutis

by Marcelijus Martinaitis

Bilingual English / Lithuanian edition

Translated from the Lithuanian and introduced by Laima Vincë

Part of our Arc Classics: New Translations of Great Poets of the Past series edited by Jean Boase-Beier

Kukutis made his appearance in the Stalinist era, at the height of the forced collectivization of Lithuanian farming by the occupying Soviet forces which saw the obliteration of whole rural communities, and the introduction of oppressive laws and regulations. Completely incapable of understanding, let alone abiding by, these strictures, Kukutis — the outsider, the trickster — functioned outside of regulation and moved between different worlds, unhindered by borders and limits.

In creating the character of Kukutis, Marcelijus Martinaitis found a voice which could articulate the anger, frustration and passions of the Lithuanian people, a voice which, contrary to all expectations, managed to escape the Soviet censor's pen and which, a decade after publication of The Ballads of Kukutis, was to become the catalyst for revolution in the Baltics. Indeed, during the mass political rallies of the late 1980s and early '90s, poems from The Ballads were chanted, sung and performed everywhere.

In this volume, Martinaitis's witty, ironic and incisive poems are published together, in English in Laima Vincë's superb translation, as a single collection for the first time.

For Lithuanians, Kukutis carried the message of freedom. Outside of Lithuania, Kukutis bore witness to the fragility and the tenacity of an occupied people's will to survive.

Liama Vincė

Translating The Ballads of Kukutis; Laima Vincė talks about working with the poet M. Martinaitis.

Lithuania under Soviet Rule and an introduction to The Ballads of Kukutis by Laima Vincė.


9781906570262 (pbk)
9781906570279 (hbk)
9781908376398 (ebk)
Published May 2011

» About Marcelijus Martinaitis