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Daemon in Lithuania: Novel

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Here is a book that is elegant, good-humored, innocent, perverse, poetic, funny, extravagant, and philosophic. Then appears the cat Daemon! Gentle reader, not a demon but manifestation of the spirit the ancients supposed presided over their most secret intentions.


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Here is a book that is elegant, good-humored, innocent, perverse, poetic, funny, extravagant, and philosophic. Then appears the cat Daemon! Gentle reader, not a demon but manifestation of the spirit the ancients supposed presided over their most secret intentions.

30 review for Daemon in Lithuania: Novel

  1. 4 out of 5

    Eddie Watkins

    The other day I skipped out of work for a moment to go looking for “something new, something I’ve never heard of” to read. I headed straight for the Penn Book Center (a great little bookstore if you’re ever in Philly…) and after just a few minutes of scanning the shelves I came upon Daemon in Lithuania. It caught my eye first because it had an old school New Directions spine, second because the whole spine was slightly jaundiced, and third because I liked the cover drawing. Oh and fourth because The other day I skipped out of work for a moment to go looking for “something new, something I’ve never heard of” to read. I headed straight for the Penn Book Center (a great little bookstore if you’re ever in Philly…) and after just a few minutes of scanning the shelves I came upon Daemon in Lithuania. It caught my eye first because it had an old school New Directions spine, second because the whole spine was slightly jaundiced, and third because I liked the cover drawing. Oh and fourth because it was cheap, which justified a search for another book, another something new something I’d never read before… It was everything I expected and wanted – a kind of off-the-cuff fairy tale both whimsical and vicious (the epigraph is a Djuna Barnes quote God, children know something they can’t tell, they like Red Riding Hood and the wolf in bed!). It is off-the-cuff, with a pot-luck picaresque structure, but it is also elegant and spare (spare and lush, like Cocteau). It is also wonderfully translated by Barbara Wright (which fact was another factor in my decision to pick it up). We are introduced to an insular castle-bound family of oddballs who are languishing in a landscape of ceaseless rain, when a cat appears, or rather is found in a forgotten attic, and then all hell and heaven breaks out. The daemon of the title is the cat, and the cat plays the role of catalyst for the release of each individual family member’s repressed impulses, as it eats nothing but vegetables and fine desserts, and grows to the size of a Saint Bernard. It doesn’t get kinky, unless you get off on older housekeepers with long fluffy tails concealed beneath their petticoats, and it doesn’t go too over the top, unless you consider an uncle who files his teeth into vampire points and bites the son over the top; but there is a lot of cultured anarchy at play and even a descent into the roots of human nature that toys (as is only appropriate, since heaviness is not the point here) with profundity. This is a tale very much in the tradition of H C Andersen. In fact the back cover suggests comparisons to him and Lewis Carroll, Cocteau, La Fontaine, Ronald Firbank, Giradoux, Julien Gracq, E.T.A. Hoffmann, Sterne, and Voltaire. I don’t know about all that, but I did detect some Firbank in the fancifully detailed descriptions of fineries, and Hoffmann in the earthy fairy talish quality, and Gracq (maybe) in the remote castle setting; but really it just seems to be itself, an eye opener and a delight, and it makes me wonder whatever happened to Henri Guigonnat…

  2. 4 out of 5

    S̶e̶a̶n̶

    First published in France in 1973, this charming neo-Gothic tale relates the adventures of young narrator Max-Ulrich, his sister Kinga, and their grandparents Casimira and Emeric, who live a reclusive existence in a rural Lithuanian castle. One night Max-Ulrich discovers a very special Cat sitting in the attic, and all of their lives are changed forevermore. This one should be of interest to enthusiastic readers of cheerily dark fabulist fiction.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jim Coughenour

    As soon as I'd closed the book I looked at the reviews here, curious to see what goodreaders have made of it. I especially enjoy the comparisons: Lewis Carroll, Cocteau, La Fontaine, Ronald Firbank, Giradoux, Julien Gracq, E.T.A. Hoffmann, Sterne or Mervyn Peake, Mikhail Bulgakov and Charles Addams. Yes, yes, and yes. I was reminded of Angela Carter, particularly the opening of the marvelous "Courtship of Mr Lyon" Outside her kitchen window, the hedgerow glistened as if the snow possessed a ligh As soon as I'd closed the book I looked at the reviews here, curious to see what goodreaders have made of it. I especially enjoy the comparisons: Lewis Carroll, Cocteau, La Fontaine, Ronald Firbank, Giradoux, Julien Gracq, E.T.A. Hoffmann, Sterne or Mervyn Peake, Mikhail Bulgakov and Charles Addams. Yes, yes, and yes. I was reminded of Angela Carter, particularly the opening of the marvelous "Courtship of Mr Lyon" Outside her kitchen window, the hedgerow glistened as if the snow possessed a light of its own; when the sky darkened towards evening an unearthly, reflected pallor remained behind upon the winter's landscape, while still the soft flakes floated down…Or some of the ominous tales of Rachel Ingalls. The fusty confabulations of Edward Gorey; the sorrowful twisted landscape of Gombrowicz's Pornografia. And maybe some echoes from the short tales of Michel Tournier. – But yes, most of all Bulgakov, the blizzards from A Young Doctor's Notebook and the gigantic cat from The Master and Margarita. In fact, Guigonnat isn't any of these. Those lovable eccentric acrobats in the ancient castle are capable of anything, especially the She-Daemon.I don't like it when Daemon vanishes into the twilight. There have been dreadful rumors – children have disappeared. I don't really think she eats them, but a blue silk ribbon was found on the snow, and, farther off, a little, roughly-carved wooden toy. But in any case – and I am quite sure of this – she doesn't attack animals.Barbara Wright's translation hits the black keys exactly, providing many a low chuckle that disturbed my own gold-eyed daemon, who'd pick up my vibe and grumble and chirrup from the next room: enough!

  4. 4 out of 5

    Vasha7

    A bizarrely comic, cheerful and slightly perverse story set in an imaginary eastern Europe; a cat the size of a huge dog, whose mesmerizing beauty and imperious personality dominate and enchant everyone, is only the most central of many strangenesses. I finished the book laughing and grinning, and willing to think that the narrator's joy makes up for the uneasy undertones of his experiences.

  5. 5 out of 5

    🐴 🍖

    oh ya know... it's your classic story of boy finds cat in attic, cat grows to the size of a sheepdog on a diet of pastries, cat teaches family to fart w/ abandon at the dinner table, pagoda vanishes, etc etc. a barbara wright translation that happily for once isn't larded w/ random britishisms (nobody complaining about "the rozzers" like you see when she does queneau). in a parallel universe i'm sure neutral milk hotel has a concept album based off this (see also: the hearing trumpet by leonora oh ya know... it's your classic story of boy finds cat in attic, cat grows to the size of a sheepdog on a diet of pastries, cat teaches family to fart w/ abandon at the dinner table, pagoda vanishes, etc etc. a barbara wright translation that happily for once isn't larded w/ random britishisms (nobody complaining about "the rozzers" like you see when she does queneau). in a parallel universe i'm sure neutral milk hotel has a concept album based off this (see also: the hearing trumpet by leonora carrington)

  6. 4 out of 5

    Eleanor Toland

    There are no demons in Dæmon in Lithuania, and it's not really set in Lithuania, but Herni Guigonnat's only novel is nevertheless a unique piece of baroque weirdness reminiscent of Mervyn Peake, Mikhail Bulgakov and Charles Addams. Bespectacled young protagonist Max-Ulrich lives in an overgrown, largely abandoned castle with his sister and grandparents and their army of servants. The family spend their days picking at elaborate banquets, entertaining princesses, singing Schubert and indulging ra There are no demons in Dæmon in Lithuania, and it's not really set in Lithuania, but Herni Guigonnat's only novel is nevertheless a unique piece of baroque weirdness reminiscent of Mervyn Peake, Mikhail Bulgakov and Charles Addams. Bespectacled young protagonist Max-Ulrich lives in an overgrown, largely abandoned castle with his sister and grandparents and their army of servants. The family spend their days picking at elaborate banquets, entertaining princesses, singing Schubert and indulging rampant hypochondria. Their stagnant lives are interrupted by the arrival one stormy night of the extraordinary Dæmon, who is most probably a cat. Though cats don't usually grow to the size of sheepdogs, or disdain eating meat in favour of pastries and shortbread. Dæmon becomes the lonely Max-Ulrich's closest companion. She's a capricious, temperamental creature who bites, scratches and demands to be practically worshipped, but she also shows a very protective side. Dæmon's arrival is naturally the catalyst for all kinds of escalating weirdness: a maid is revealed to be hiding an embarrassing secret, Max-Ulrich and his sister get a remarkable governess who refuses to share her name, the men of the castle conspire to avoid being drafted. It's all a bit episodic and sketchy, but wonderfully strange, and occasionally very poignant. Max-Ulrich reflects: Despite my extreme youth I was already thinking about bygone days, about aging: perhaps they began with one less game. I found this infinitely sadder than one more wrinkle... This is not a novel to read in the hopes of finding out useful information about daily life in the Baltic. The author openly admits that the book's setting is not exactly Lithuania so much as a generic Eastern European fantasy country similar to the version of Transylvania in Bram Stoker's Dracula. And as in Stoker, there are vampires in Dæmon in Lithuania. Probably. (view spoiler)[Max-Ulrich's Uncle Alexander has sharpened canines that protrude over his lower lip. In an alcohol fuelled game of hide and seek, he bites his nephew... Max-Ulrich falls into a comatose state, and he's only revived when his governess and Dæmon lick him back to humanity. The whole sequence is creepy and very Freudian, surely at least partly intentionally so... "A dream came to meet me, full of silky, moving tongues that licked me delightfully." (hide spoiler)] The novel breaks off rather abruptly, as if the author wasn't sure how to finish it, which is sad, as the exploits of Max-Ulrich's family could easily have supplied a much longer work. There are also strong hints that the characters' lives would have become considerably darker had the author continued, hints that perhaps Dæmon really was one after all...

  7. 5 out of 5

    Alex

    ok! first person to review this one! how exciting. it's a strange little book...picked up on a lark in a strange little bookstore...and it turned out to be a strange, wonderful surprise. there's something very profound that comes through in scarce few pages...about control, contentment. the imagery is so sparse yet so lovely. there's no reason not to read this book. recommended!

  8. 5 out of 5

    Caroline

    I'd say, at first, this reading this book is like having dictionaries hurled at you (ie: phthisis I'll spoil this book. Daemon is a cat. That's not a spoiler right? Well, what I mean, anyone who has a cat in their family and loves their cat, has a Daemon. The finickiness. The indifference. The leaping through the air randomly. Knocking stuff around and chasi I'd say, at first, this reading this book is like having dictionaries hurled at you (ie: phthisis<- Opera has this word underlines in red, not even recognizing it). So if you are a HS student, studying for SATs, please pick this book up. I'll spoil this book. Daemon is a cat. That's not a spoiler right? Well, what I mean, anyone who has a cat in their family and loves their cat, has a Daemon. The finickiness. The indifference. The leaping through the air randomly. Knocking stuff around and chasing people down angrily. I too have a Daemon- her name is Mandie. The children in the family, and most of the adults fear her. Shes me-ows and Mom or I run, Dad tries to figure it out but he can't understand the sophisticated nuances or a meow. This book was hilarious, the family is hilarious.

  9. 5 out of 5

    R.K. Cowles

    4 1/2 stars

  10. 5 out of 5

    Judybee

    Both weird and charming. If Edward Gorey wrote a novel this would be it!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Kbuxton

  12. 5 out of 5

    Zhanna Chausovskaya

  13. 5 out of 5

    Peter Nelson-King

  14. 5 out of 5

    Marissa

  15. 5 out of 5

    Ian

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jesse

  17. 5 out of 5

    Wm.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Josh Ronsen

  19. 5 out of 5

    Osiris Oliphant

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jolanta (knygupe)

  21. 4 out of 5

    Nicole

  22. 4 out of 5

    Kilgore

  23. 5 out of 5

    David

  24. 5 out of 5

    Sem

  25. 4 out of 5

    Ophion

  26. 5 out of 5

    Maren

  27. 5 out of 5

    Samantha Lewis

  28. 4 out of 5

    David F.

  29. 5 out of 5

    James

  30. 4 out of 5

    John

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