Visiting Mabre Hotel: The Architecture of Reading

My paper attempts to delineate various ways of thinking about a literary text and its medium (a book) as a peculiar architectural construction and a multilayered spatial artifact. A case study of a Lithuanian autobiographical work in prose, Mabre Hotel (“Mabre viešbutis”), will be discussed in order to expose a sensible, sensitive and sensuous experience of reading. Published eight years after the death of the author, the renowned Lithuanian city poetess Judita Vaičiūnaitė, Mabre Hotel appears as an interesting example of literary memorialization. A retrospective prose narrative that commemorates the times past and people lost, it is also a distinct and unique memorial to its author. Most of the texts gathered in the book have been published previously, thus the significance of the edition rests not so much on the content of the main corpus as on the publisher’s strategy of its presentation. Paratext provided by the poetess’ daughter Ula Vaičiūnaitė appears as a curious collection of heterogenous fragments – family album photos, facsimiles of poems and drawings and, most importantly, two facsimiles of the manuscript plan of a work never finished, but curiously enough bearing the same name as the published book (“Mabre viešbutis“). Gérard’s Genette’s theory of hypertextuality will be invoked to uncover complex, multilayered hypertextual relations and to bring to the fore questions of authenticity and authorship of the discourse. The concept of the autobiographical pact coined by Phillipe Lejeune will be discussed in order to explore the roles of the author and the reader and their contractual relatedness in the text. The autobiographical pact stated by the formal strategy of Mabre Hotel appears to testify not so much about a type of writing as about a mode of reading. The reader is invited to follow in the footsteps of the “author” of the book (Ula Vaičiūnaitė) in a peculiar quest for the work never written. This distinctive journey, which involves crossing various boundaries (e.g. between the text and the paratext) and enables diverse, intermedial relations, engages different senses of the reader who, consequently, can also be described as a viewer and a tactile explorer of the text. Step by step the sense of absence turns into an experience of presence, and the idea of an unwritten, autobiographical work into a tangible memorial to the life of the author.

Aušra Kundrotaitė

A. J. Greimas Centre for Semiotics and Literary Theory, Institute for Literary, Cultural and Translation Studies, Vilnius University

born in 1986 in Vilnius, Lithuania. In 2005 she started studying Lithuanian philology at Vilnius University. Later on she continued her studies as an MA student in Intermedial Literary Studies. In 2017 she defended her MA thesis “The Encounter Between Word and Image in the City of Rolandas Rastauskas and Remigijus Treigys: Berlinalia”. Now Aušra is a PhD student at the Institute for Literary, Cultural and Translation Studies (Vilnius University). She is working on a thesis titled “(Re)Construction of the City in the Autobiographical Prose”. Her current research interests include intertextuality, intermediality, semiotics, urban semiotics, the city in literature, feminist theory.

autobiographical pact