Liquid Ink

The official website of Gint Aras, Finalist 2016 CWA Book Award

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Readers ask: Why don’t your stories have endings?

This question came a while ago from someone who has read almost every available work of fiction I’ve ever written. While my novel, Finding the Moon in Sugar, saw very few reviews, several reviewers commented that the book had no ending. Reviewers of The Fugue have not made similar comments…not that I remember. But the reader asking the question felt the final paragraph of The Fugue is even less an ending than the final bit in Finding the Moon.

I find this really fascinating. It goes completely contrary to my process and point of view. I don’t feel I can really start writing something until I see how it ends. I’ve said in many interviews that The Fugue started out as a vignette of a man repairing a window. I didn’t know I had a novel until I imagined the very final scene. The horror and displacement convinced me I had a novel.

All this aside, my endings don’t offer resolution. I find resolution to be among the greatest contrivances in literature. I don’t think of narratives or time in linear terms, but if we do think this way, a cliché applies: all roads lead to the same destination, and that destination is a mystery. There’s a difference between writing the last word of a text—always an energizing moment—and resolving the narrative’s problem. A good ending is one that leaves the reader feeling obliterated or provoked. It is not one that leaves the reader with the delusion that now s/he “understands something” or, worse, “understands everything.”

There’s no way to answer this question in detail without discussing the actual endings. As a person fascinated with love and death, I write about not knowing. One of my most important themes, I think, is ignorance, especially the kind of ignorance we can’t perceive. So I don’t try to answer any questions in my fiction. My fiction is a way for me to express my ignorance, and my endings work to that end.

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Reading at Tuesday Funk (Chicago)

I’m very happy to announce that I’ll be reading at Tuesday Funk, one of the best reading series in Chicago.

Chicago-area fans should save the date. This May 6th, 7:30 PM, I’ll be reading a section of “A Safe Place,” the chapter from Finding the Moon in Sugar. I don’t know who’s joining me in the lineup, but the night is usually about a two-hour event and features 5-7 readers, each reading for about 10-15 minutes.

The May reading has yet to be announced officially on the Tuesday Funk blog, but you can check here for updates.

Hope to see you.

Self Portrait

Self Portrait


Junkie kids in Odessa

(WARNING: the included link leads to graphic photos of children depicted in states of tragedy.)

I was deeply moved by these photographs, by Michal Novotný, of Odessa street kids. It is not simply that these photos are completely annihilating. They also take me back to the time my novel was published, early 2009, and criticisms I received for depicting a false reality in Vilnius, where a good chunk of the book is set.

One of the characters in my novel, Finding the Moon in Sugar, is a junkie, and he becomes a junkie when only a child. He joins a community of junkies, and eventually contracts HIV from sharing needles with fellow child-addicts.

A lot of people were pissed at me for this. They claimed I was misrepresenting Lithuania, exaggerating the problem of drugs; others claimed that I should be been doing better for the country by “focussing on the positive”.

This criticism did not sit well with me. I had based this junkie character, named Kovas, on a young man I knew. I had lived with his family, am still close to his sister, and had spent intimate hours in Vilnius with him. In a way, he shaped my view of the city, especially in the mid-90’s, by bringing me close to the youth. It affected me horribly to learn that he had become a junkie, later to learn that he had overdosed in the woods outside the capital; that he had—the theory went—gone out there to OD on purpose.

These photographs, while from Odessa, are taken in 2006, at exactly the same time that Finding the Moon in Sugar takes place. While my book is a work of fiction, these photos are clearly not. I’m sure that someone’s going to say, given my usage of these photos to draw attention to the very real problem of child-addicts in Eastern Europe, that Odessa and Vilnius are very different. You can believe that if you want to. I’ll make this suggestion: herion doesn’t discriminate, and it doesn’t check your passport. The reasons kids in Odessa are out shooting heroin are identical to the reasons kids in Vilnius are doing it.

Why do children end up joining drug communities? They often percieve that they don’t matter to the environment they know.

It should not matter to us how many such kids can be found in major cities of the former Soviet Union. Pointing out they exist is not an exaggeration. It should upset us that these kids exist in the first place. But they won’t go away if we pretend they aren’t there.


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My SLS Events

Liquid Inkers:

This is a great week to be in Vilnius and to be participating in the Summer Literary Seminar. I’m really excited for tonight’s opening reception.

I’m presenting this week at two events:

Tuesday July 16th, 2:00 at Mokytojų Namai Room 219

Lecture: Trusting Oneself—Memory, Imagination and the Traumatized Writer.

(Open only to SLS participants)

This lecture will examine how a writer sees himself after experiencing a childhood trauma—be it abuse, war or some disaster—which interferes with his ability to clearly distinguish between memory and imagination. I’ll be talking about my battle with PTSD, and the difficulty this condition presents to a writer who wants to document and share his traumas.

Interestingly, my experience of PTSD has convinced me that the reason we see so few wartime narratives from the 1945 wave of Lithuanian displaced persons is not only because those memories are difficult to handle. They are also slippery, folded into and between fantasies and dreams, imagined episodes, some of them impossible distinguish as one thing or another.

It is easy to blame oneself for being a fool when we’re caught in such a psychic predicament. However, the relationship between memory and imagination is reciprocal, and we depend on our imaginations more than we depend on our memories to write, to create and to do our daily work.

Thursday, July 18th, 7:00 PM at Mint Vinetu Bookstore, Šv Ignoto 16

I’ll be reading selections from Finding the Moon in Sugar. It’s the only American cult novel ever set in Vilnius.

Also reading are Benas Januševičius, who’ll present translations of Linor Goralik’s poetry, and Alex Haberstadt, presenting works of non-fiction.

In celebration of Vilnius’ cultural diversity, this reading will be in English, Russian and Lithuanian. So bring your polyglot friends!