TOFYLIS, OR THE MARRIAGE OF ZOSĖ

Žemaitė
Translated from the Lithuanian by Violeta Kelertas

Zosė, a beautiful, diligent and innocent peasant girl, works as a maid in the service of a wealthy country estate. Courted by the local young men and resistant to the attentions of her master, who forces himself upon her, she is in fact wholly in love with Tofylis, the huntsman. Tofylis’s good looks and practised seduction manoeuvres have blinded her to his brutishness and faux sophistication.

This simple tale from 1897 is made deeply complex by Žemaitė’s acute, compassionate eye and ear for the lives of the lower classes in Lithuania at the time. As a depiction of patriarchal attitudes, coercive control and the limited options facing poor women, it has remarkable contemporary resonance.

ŽEMAITĖ (1845–1921) is the pen name of Julija Beniuševičiūtė- Žymantienė, who was born to Lithuanian gentry in Samogitia, in the country’s northwest (“Žemaitė” means “Samogitian woman”). She had no formal education but was widely read, and began writing late in life. Her subjects were the serfs and peasants of the Lowlands, about whom she wrote in their own lively vernacular. She was an early feminist and a passionate advocate for the rights of the dispossessed in Lithuania, Russia and the United States, where she lived for some years before returning to her homeland at the very end of her life.

VIOLETA KELERTAS is a professor of Lithuanian Studies researching feminism, narrative theory and postcolonialism. She translates from Lithuanian into English, and is best known for her anthology of Soviet Lithuanian short stories, Come into My Time: Lithuania in Prose Fiction, 1970–90. Her forthcoming book contains Žemaitė’s major prose works, including the writer’s highly compelling autobiography.

ISBN 9781911475347 – Paperback – 110 mm x 140 mm – 80 pages
 – £2.99

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