Balys Sruoga

Balys Sruoga bigraphy, stories - Lithuanian writer

Balys Sruoga : biography

February 2, 1896 – October 16, 1947

Balys Sruoga (February 2, 1896, near Biržai, Lithuania – October 16, 1947, Vilnius) was a Lithuanian poet, playwright, critic, and literary theorist.

He contributed to cultural journals from his early youth. His works were published by the liberal wing of the Lithuanian cultural movement, and also in various Lithuanian newspapers and other outlets (such as Aušrinė, Rygos Naujienos etc.). In 1914 he began studying literature in St. Petersburg, Russia, and later in Moscow, due to World War I and the Russian Revolution. In 1921 he enrolled in the University of Munich, where in 1924 he received his Ph.D for a doctoral thesis on Lithuanian folklore.

After returning to Lithuania, Sruoga taught at the University of Lithuania, and established a theater seminar that eventually became a course of study. He also wrote various articles on literature. From 1930 he began writing dramas, first Milžino paunksmė, later Radvila Perkūnas, Baisioji naktis and Aitvaras teisėjas. In 1939 he began teaching at Vilnius University.

During occupations of Lithuania

He wrote many dramatic works and poetry, but his best known work is the novel The Forest of Gods (Dievų miškas), based on his own life experiences as a prisoner in Nazi German concentration camps, where he was sent in March 1943 together with forty-seven other Lithuanian intellectuals. Sruoga and the others were sent there after the Nazis started a campaign against possible anti-Nazi agitation in occupied Lithuania. In The Forest of Gods Balys Sruoga revealed life in a concentration camp through the eyes of a man whose only way to save his life and maintain his dignity was to view everything through a veil of irony and humor, where torturers and their victims are exposed as imperfect human beings, being far removed from the false ideals of their political leaders. For example, "Human – is not a machine. Gets tired." – in regards to the guards beating prisoners. Originally the novel was forbidden to be published by Soviet officials; it was ultimately published in 1957, ten years after the author’s death. In 1945 he returned to Vilnius and continued teaching at Vilnius University, where he wrote the dramas Pajūrio kurortas and Barbora Radvilaitė.

Refusal to publish The Forest of Gods, and weak health resulting from his time in concentration camps, led to his death in October 16, 1947. The 2005 film Forest of the Gods was based on the book.