Antanas Škėma

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Antanas Škėma
Born (1910-11-29)November 29, 1910
Łódź, Congress Poland
Died August 11, 1961(1961-08-11) (aged 50)
Pennsylvania, US
Occupation Novelist, short story writer, playwright
Nationality Lithuanian
Genre Existentialism, dramas
Notable works Balta drobulė (The White Shroud)

Antanas Škėma (Lithuanian pronunciation: [ɐnˈtaːnɐs ˈʂkʲeːmɐ]; November 29, 1910 – August 11, 1961) was a Lithuanian writer, stage actor and director. His best known work is the novel The White Shroud (Balta drobulė).

Early life and career[edit]

Antanas Škėma was born on November 29, 1910 (according to his birth certificate in 1911) in Łódź, Poland where his father was sent to work as a teacher. During World War I he lived in Russia with his parents. In 1921, they all came back to Lithuania.

He attended high schools in Radviliškis and Kaunas. In 1929, he entered the University of Lithuania medical faculty, but in 1931 he transferred his studies to the Faculty of Law. At the time university was renamed to Vytautas Magnus University.

In 1935 he entered the theater studio directed by V.Sipavičius-Fedotas. While attending the studio he was also accepted to the Lithuanian State Theatre in Kaunas – in 1936, Škėma started acting on Lithuania's greatest stage. When he was in Kaunas he married Janina Solkeviciute, a Polish economist. From 1940 to 1944 he did work in Vilnius State Theater, at first as an actor, and later as a director. Škėma had parts in nearly every play of that time. His daughter, Kristina, was born in 1940 in Vilnius, days after the German occupation of the city.

In 1944, he left Lithuania for Germany, where he was involved in some artistic work with Lithuanian troupes, primarily in DP camps.

In 1949, Škėma left Europe for United States of America, and actively joined Lithuanian exile cultural and theatrical activities . He acted at the Chicago Theater and also in Boston's Drama Group performances.

In 1960–1961 he worked in the editorial office of Vienybė newspaper. In addition, he was lecturing, writing and printing articles about theater and literature in several publications.

Antanas Škėma died in a car accident in Pennsylvania on August 11, 1961.

Literary work[edit]

Škėma's only novel, "The White Shroud" (1958), aroused vivid literary discussions. Most of the literary critics considered "The White Shroud" an interesting literary experiment that tried to lead the Lithuanian novel down a new path. The novel traces the route towards madness of a poet named Antanas Garšva who, like Škėma, works as an elevator operator. The author discloses the character of Garšva and his tragic experiences.

The style of Antanas Škėma is very particular, full of unexpected metaphor and subconscious. Nevertheless, there are stylistic contrasts also: lyric and aesthetically delicate confessions are suddenly followed by coarse, cynical images and rude words. He often plays with the sounds of language, disengaging phonemes from their literal meaning, as if to suggest a more transcendent meaning to the sounds. He's sometimes referred to as Lithuanian Albert Camus.

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