- Paperback: 300 pages
- Publisher: Thomas Allen Publishers; 1 edition (Feb. 26 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0887627366
- ISBN-13: 978-0887627361
- Product Dimensions: 15.9 x 2.5 x 22.9 cm
- Shipping Weight: 431 g
- Average Customer Review: 8 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #294,425 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Underground: A Novel Paperback – Feb 26 2011
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Underground might be described as a historical love story, but it is also a political military/spy thriller. Sileika writes with a spare style that suits the action sequences as well as the rare moments of tenderness or humour. Entertaining and sometimes shocking, the book describes a little-known period of European history that has been kept underground far too long. (Vancouver Sun)
...full of poetry and wisdom gorgeously expressed... a brilliant, highly accessible military history, one that remains largely repressed--underground-- in the East and in the West. (Globe and Mail)
It's a curious novel telling an unusual story...One of the best descriptions of life on the run by dedicated partisans, it's brutal in places, heroic in others, and always rewarding. (Owen Sound Sun Times)
In an uncompromising novel, post-war Lithuania receives its due. (Literary Review of Canada)
Sileika's novel is a gripping tale...engag[ing] the reader to the last page. (National Post)
The tale is briskly told, with pages of dialogue and swift changes of scenery. You can almost see the film script emerging. (The Edmonton Journal)
Seleika does capture the partisans droll humour and aphorisms in many passages (The Toronto Star)
...elegant thinking that characterizes this rare and compelling chronicle of Lithuanian partisans... (The Globe and Mail)
...an evocation of the harsh, often brutal life endured by partisans in their struggle to bring the attention of the West to their plight. (Quill and Quire)
Entertaining and sometimes shocking the book describes a little known period of European history that has been kept underground far too long. (The Gazette)
About the Author
Antanas Sileika is the author of two novels and one collection of linked short stories, Buying On Time, which was nominated for both the City of Toronto Book Award and the Stephen Leacock Award for Humour. His last novel, Woman in Bronze, was a Globe and Mail Best Book selection. He lives in Toronto, where he is the artistic director for the Humber School for Writers.
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In the Acknowledgments of this book the author states the novel itself could not have been written if not for the collapse of the Soviet Union and the independence of Lithuania in 1991. He admits that "these events opened up various archives and personal memoirs that led to the publication of a large number of histories about the partisan resistance to the second Soviet occupation in 1944. The story of the partisan resistance not only in Lithuania but also in Estonia, Latvia, Ukraine and Poland remains largely unknown in the West....Before 1991, few of the details or the partisan resistance were known beyond the stories told in Juozas Luksa's PARTIZANAI first published in 1950 and now available on [...] as Forest Brothers: The Account of an Anti-Soviet Lithuanian Freedom Fighter, 1944-1948 when Luksa came out to the West, fell in love and married, and then returned to Lithuania, where he was betrayed and shot in ambush." The author admits to having used the outline of the Luksa story for Underground: A Novel.
In this novel the author tells the love story of Lukas and Elena, two members of the underground Lithuanian resistance movement which itself began in the mid 1940's and did not end until about 1953--nine years after Lithuania's second occupation. The characters and the plot line are fictional, of course, but the story of the Lithuanian partisans is not and the author takes this opportunity to educate the public about their existance. The adult child of Lithuanian refugees, myself, I found what I learned here to be the most interesting. For instance early in the novel the author describes how the lead character (Lukas) and his brother, Vincentas, "swore their oaths...promising to obey all orders not to desert and to fight until the Reds had been chased out of the country,,,,One hundred and fifty men and two women stood at attention, saluted them and then sang the national anthem as if they were living in a free state." This is the point in the novel where Lukas first meets Elena with whom he later falls in love. It also represents the time when the partisan reistance in Lithuania was strongest "with as many as thirty thousand active participants and many more supporters. By the early fifties, numbers were down to a couple of thousand, and these were being slowly exterminated."
This is a sad story but one that needed to be written. I cannot imagine what partisans like Lukas and Elena felt when they finally realized that no one was coming to help them rid thier country of the Soviets. As the author so skillfully writes: "The French and English had gone to war over Poland..surely the next to be liberated after Poland should be Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania which thought of themselves as part of the European family....No one else did. The English had decided to give the three Baltic countries to the Soviets if they were ever asked but the Reds never bothered. They believed they didn't need to....Roosevelt told Stalin he could keep the Baltics as long as he was discreet....The war had ended for Westerners in Europe on May 8, 1945, after which Germans and Americans, English and French all laid down their arms and began the hard road to peace, the rebuilding of cities, the denazification that would clear away the old enemies...But in the East no such end came. Instead of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, in Ukraine and Belarussia and parts of Poland the war went underground. For awhile the partisans fought pitched battles from fixed positions, but now that Germany was defeated the Reds could turn and devote their strength to making the new lands confrom to their plans."
This is an excellent book I am so happy my maternal aunt in Toronto told me about. As I was reading it, I was thinking "You know this would have the makings of a good movie--in the same vein as the 1965 film Doctor Zhivago which, as I recall, begins with the daughter of two hapless lovers during the Russian Revolution of 1917 being told about her past. The film then takes the opportunity to describe the impact historical events of the day left on the people who were living them at the time. At the end of Underground: A Novel, many years later, two young men find out that they are indeed half-brothers, offspring of the Lithuanian partisan restistance fighter, Lukas Petronis. A film based on this book would not only "entertain" with a powerful love story but could also educate them about a very important chapter of history that should never be forgotten. I STROHGLY recommend this book!
From frosty, wooded roads in Lithuania to the muddy camps of displaced peoples in West Germany to beautiful European capitals that escaped destruction, through the itinerant travels of Lukas, Antanas Sileika shows the experience of so many emigres forced to leave their homes.
Lukas's story ends beautifully and tragically, but the framing story that follows is just as vital. The sons he left behind find each other after the Soviet collapse and share with each-other what they know of those who left and those who stayed: the full history of a people divided and scattered.
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