How a real Lithuanian spy working in Eastern Europe after WWI inspired Antanas Sileika's new novel
Antanas Sileika regularly appears as a columnist on The Next Chapter. He's the former director of the Humber School for Writers and he's been nominated for literary awards such as the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour and the City of Toronto Book Award.
His latest book is Provisionally Yours, a novel set in Lithuania after the First World War and the collapse of Czarist Russia. It's a thriller with a counterintelligence agent named Justas Adamonis who gets caught up in a world of espionage, corruption and betrayal.
The fall of empires
"It's 1918, the end of the First World War. That war, for Canadians in particular, is the formative moment that creates us as a nation. But over in Eastern Europe, the Germans actually won the war and they were deep into Belarus and Poland. The fighting kept going until 1920, when the Poles drove the Bolsheviks deep back into Russia, into what later became the Soviet Union. And everything is shattered over there.
"The novel starts in 1921, when the wars have just ended in that part of the world. You have new countries as the empires have collapsed and everything is fragile.
"Most of what occurs in the book is based on historical fact and then woven into the fiction narrative."
A Lithuanian James Bond
"I had this opportunity to play with a James Bond-like character in Justas Adamonis. The character is based on a person who ran the Lithuanian counterintelligence agency from 1921 until 1923. He was a man who likes expensive restaurants, good hotels, fast cars and beautiful women. That falls right into that old-fashioned James Bond category. By today's standards, he's a bit pragmatic, a bit capable of using people for certain ends.
"What happens is all these empires — Austrian, Hungarian, Russian — are shattered. Justas is one of those characters who appears when everything's collapsed. He's one of those strong capable people that you often need at the beginning. But I wonder if you'd want him around after for 20 years."
Antanas Sileika's comments have been edited for length and clarity.