A review of
by Ričardas Gavelis
“That’s what they say,” we say, usually without much thought about who “they” might be. Vytautas Vargalys, the man at the center of Vilnius Poker, can’t identify Them either. But he also can’t ignore Them. In Lithuania under Soviet rule, They are everywhere, and he gives Them the perverse honorifics of capitalization and italicization in the first-person tirade that occupies more than half of this sprawling 485-page novel.
Vargalys is a programmer at a library in Vilnius, creating “an experimental computerized card index” for the institution’s many closed special collections. He exploits his free access to library materials, attempting to divine Their plans from the pages of books. “I don’t know why it’s in Lithuania in particular that They so openly show themselves,” Vargalys says, and in his account, Their hand in human events is shown by the endless numbers of the “kanuked,” idiot slaves to whatever regime rules them, crowding both the streets of Vilnius and the historical record. “Even entire civilizations are kanuked,” he reports, and They have made it happen.
We hope you enjoy this excerpt.To read the full piece, please purchase a copy of the magazine from The McSweeney’s Store.