Vilnius Poker


by Ričardas Gavelis

January 15, 2009
novel | ebook (epub) | 485 pgs
5.5" x 8.5"

"Think of it as The Matrix behind the Iron Curtain—unsettling and profoundly interesting." 
Kirkus Reviews

Vytautas Vargalys is stuck in an absurd job, helping to create a digital catalog for a library in Soviet-ruled Vilnius that no one is allowed to access. A survivor of the labor camps, an experience which has left him both physically and mentally damaged, Vargalys is obsessed with finding out "what’s really going on" in Vilnius. As his tenuous grip on reality begins to slip, he discovers that They have taken over. They are dead-eyed demons who have assumed human form; Theyare determined to steal everyone's soul and turn the world to shit. Vargalys begins to find evidence of Their presence wherever he looks: in books, in the death of his best friend, and in the beautiful women who are sent to work at the library. 

One of these beautiful women is Lolita, an aptly named seductress with a mysterious past and a growing love for Vargalys. Vilnius Poker chronicles the tragic relationship between Vargalys and Lolita—and between Vilnius and everyone who lives in the city—from four different perspectives, and it captures the surreal horror of life under the Soviet yoke. 

By turns lyrical, philosophical, and deeply shockingly, Vilnius Poker is often referred to as "the turning point in Lithuanian literature" and it earned Gavelis his reputation as Lithuania's greatest novelist.

Translated from the Lithuanian by Elizabeth Novickas

About the Author: Ričardas Gavelis was a prose writer and playwright. He published his first book—a collection of short stories entitled The Celebration That Has Not Begun—in 1976 and went on to write six novels, three collections of stories, and several plays before passing away in 2002. His other novels include Seven Ways to Commit SuicideThe Last Generation of People on Earth, and The Life of Sun-Tzu in the Sacred City of Vilnius. This is his first novel to be published in English.


"Ričardas Gavelis is the grand innovator of literature. His work could be called magic realism or surrealism, compared to Franz Kafka or Roald Dahl." 
Die Tageszeitung (Berlin)

"In Vilnius Poker, Gavelis broke more taboos in Lithuanian literature than any other Lithuanian prose writer."
—Almantas Samalavicius