In association with Embassy of Lithuania in France
Composer-in-residence Siobhán Cleary will present the fascinating documentary Book Smugglers (with English subtitles, 73 mins) for which she composed the musical score. From 1863, Tsar Alexander II decreed an outright ban on all usage of the Lithuanian language which covered education, press, and publishing. Simple possession of literature in Lithuanian became a crime. A new type of linguistic resistance fighter emerged: the knygnešys, or “book smuggler,” who risked his life smuggling and distributing books from East Prussia.
Retracing the history of the book smugglers, this documentary directed by Jeremiah Cullinane is presented through the eyes of an Irish-speaking poet. It inevitably draws parallels with the decline of the Irish language during the same century. A delicate and sensitive issue in Ireland, it raises controversial questions: How is it that a small nation under comparable conditions of occupation and oppression managed to survive and preserve their “minor” national language, to the point where practically all Lithuanians today speak it? What is the relationship, there and in Ireland, between a national tongue and a national or personal identity?
The screening will be followed by Q&A and a short recital by Siobhán Cleary.