Anyone who comes to the poetry of Tomas Venclova, particularly in The Junction, will enter a landscape where the dead are living, where historical moments speak to each other, where the real is imagined and the imagined real. This is the landscape where impossible intimacies are possible, where the voice lives longer than the heart, where the darkest and most ragged emotions are given softer hues of forbearance and formal grace, literally through rhyme and meter. This landscape is informed in part by Vilnius, the Lithuanian capital and the city of Venclova's youth that suffered some of the severest atrocities during the Nazi and Soviet occupations. Entering consciousness in the 1940s amid ruins and remnant beauty, Venclova understood implicitly "the world was twisted, turned inside out and maimed." The landscape of these poems emanates from a deeply moral and humane soul, not simply the affirmative survivor, the exile hosting ghosts and you and me. This landscape comes from a poetry of the highest order. Translated into dozens of languages, it will undoubtedly transcend our own times to readers not yet born.
Venclova's writing offers an education in Lithuania's struggle to establish and sustain a national identity against hegemonic legacy of Poland, Germany, and Russia. Along the way, we are introduced to a rich cultural heritage, descriptions of stately architecture, nuances of language and dialect, and the diversity and character of Lithuanian people. We are introduced to the lives of exceptional literary figures, who suffered censorship and yet whose work reaches across borders and time. Venclova, whose writing and scholarly activity was also banned, has stated a stark axiom: "One cannot be silent about any crime." His writing remains rigorously vigilant against censorship, silence, and complicity.