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Vilkutaitis Brothers


Amerika pirtyje (America in the Bathhouse)VILKUTAITIS BROTHERS, writers, contributors to publications prohibited under the Russian-imposed Press Ban. Literary historians puzzle over the question of which one of them is the real author ol tho popular comedy Amerika pirtyje (America in the Bathhouse). The problem arises because Antanas Vilkutaitis died before the ban was lifted, while his brother Juozas, who survived him by 45 years, in turn never disclaimed authorship.
Antanas Vilkutaitis (1864-1903) was born in Marijampolė, on Sept. 20, 1864. He studied physics and mathematics at the University of Moscow from 1883-88, participated in its secret Lithuanian student society and distributed clandestine Lithuanian publications. Subsequently, he moved to St. Petersburg and enrolled at the Institute of Highway Engineering there. Upon earning his degree from that institution in 1891 he was assigned to work in Transcaucasia. From 1887 onwards he used various pseudonyms (most often that of Kazys Bindokas) for his contributions to newspapers published in East Prussia or the United States: Ūkininkas (The Farmer), Varpas (The Bell), Vieny'b6 LietuvninTdt (Lithuanian Unity), and Tėvynė (The Fatherland). His articles dealt with problems of the current Lithuanian national movement and with issues of social welfare. He wrote stories and translated two acts of Leo Tolstoy's drama Vlast' T'my (The Power of Darkness). He died in St. Petersburg on March 17, 1903. An edition of his writings appeared in Vilnius in 1976.
Juozas Vilkutaitis (1869-1948) was born on March 1, 1869. An accident at the
age of seven, which necessitated the amputation of his leg 12 years later, prevented him from pursuing a formal education. With help from his uncle (a priest) and student friends he became self-educated. A stay with his brother in Transcaucasia (1891-94) broadened his cultural horizons. Upon returning to Lithuania, he settled on a small farm he had inherited near Balbieriškis (1896-1908). Having acquired a competence in legal matters, he was appointed justice of the Fifth District Court at Marijampolė in 1908, serving until 1915, when he retreated to Russia with many thousands of other Lithuanians. After the reestablishment of Independent Lithuania he was appointed Seinai district judge (1919) and organized the peace tribunal at Prienai (1920). From 1924-39 he was the notary public in Prienai. He withdrew to Germany in 1944 and until his death on Sept. 11, 1948, lived in the Lithuanian refugee camp at Augsburg.
In 1890-91 he began writing tor Lithuanian underground periodicals under the pseudonym of Keturakis. His translation of the Polish story Kas kaltas (Who is to blame?) appeared in an 1891 issue of Okininkas. An original humorous piece, Kaip Mikas apsidžiaugė čebatais (How Mike enjoyed his boots), was published in a supplement the next year. The American publication Vienybė Lietuvninkų carried his story Gaisras (The Fire) in 1892. Three years later Amerika pirtyje appeared in Gkininkas. The bibliographer Silvestras Baltramaitis (q.v.) ascribed the work to Antanas Vilkutaitls. Other contemporary intellectuals (Kazys Grinius, Petras Leonas, Juozas Tumas-Vaizgantas) held the author to be Juozas Vilkutaitis. This latter view long predominated in Lithunian textbooks and encyclopedias. Nevertheless the possibility of Juozas' authorship cannot be altogether dismissed. It is likely that both brothers played a hand in writing the comedy.
Amerika pirtyje is a realistic play describing one aspect of late 19th century Lithuanian country life - the desire to go to America. Vincas, a clever village tailor, becomes amorous with Agota, a farmer's daughter, promises to marry her and take her to America with him. After she gives her prospective husband money she has stolen from her father, he locks her up in the bathhouse and takes off alone. Lively action, well-drawn characters, and witty dialogue mark the comedy. The comic elements are handled naturally and with taste. The play is the first noteworthy work of the comic genre in Lithuanian literature, and has been widely; staged in Russia, Lithuania and America (see Theater). It was separately published in 1895, 1904, 1921, and 1966, and has been translated into Russian (1902) and Belorussian (1933).

Text from the ENCYCLOPEDIA LITUANICA I-VI.  Boston, 1970-1978