Jonas Biliūnas’ “Mountain of Happiness”
The oeuvre of Jonas Biliūnas (1879–1907) marks the birth of Lithuanian lyrical psychological prose, which was influenced by the modernist ideas of relativism. His works brought into the Lithuanian canon of realist story the motifs of transitoriness of human existence, fragility of life, sadness.
Biliūnas was the first Lithuanian writer who was professionally prepared for his trade. He studied literature and related disciplines at universities in Switzerland, which gradually became a centre of Lithuanian intelligentsia already in the 19th century. The short stories written at that time indicated the writer’s maturing talent.
The Alps played asignificant role in Biliūnas’ life; this is where in 1904–1907 he wrote his best works, three of which are thematically associated with the mountains: the literary sketch Fine Weather on the Uetliberg (Ant Uetlibergo giedra!), the short story Snowstorm in the Mountains (Pūga kalnuose) and the allegorical tale The Beacon of Happiness (Laimės žiburys) — one of the most important works written in Zurich.
A serious illness prevented the writer from fully developing his talent. On 8 December 1907 he died at the age of 28 in his wife’s arms in asanatorium in Zakopane. He was buried in Pęksowy Brzysk. Thanks to the efforts of the Lithuanian writer Antanas Vienuolis Biliūnas’ remains were brought back to Lithuania, where he was laid to rest on ahill in Liudiškiai, near Anykščiai. In 1958 a monument called “Beacon of happiness” was erected on Biliūnas’ grave. The hill with the monument became asymbol the meaning of which is expressed in the tale The Beacon of Happiness. Today some people climb the hill to honour the writer’s memory, while others — believing in its sacred nature — hope that it will bring them happiness.