Antanas Sileika (Antanas Šileika) is a Canadian novelist and critic.
He was born in Weston, Ontario.
After completing an English degree at the University of Toronto, he moved to Paris for two years and there married his wife, Snaige Sileika (nee Valiunas), an art student at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. While in Paris, he worked as part of the editorial collective of the expatriate literary journal, Paris Voices, run from the upstairs room of the bookstore, Shakespeare and Company.
Upon his return to Canada in 1979, Antanas began teaching at Humber College and working as a co-editor of the Canadian literary journal, Descant, where he remained until 1988.
He became involved through journalism with Lithuania’s restitution of independence during the fall of The Soviet Union 1988-1991, and for this activity he received the Knight’s Cross medal from the Lithuanian government in 2004.
A past winner of a national magazine award, he retired in June of 2017 as the director for the Humber School for Writers in Toronto.
After writing for newspapers and magazines, Antanas published his first novel, Dinner at the End of the World (1994), a speculative story set in the aftermath of global warming.
His second book, a collection of linked short stories, Buying On Time (1997), was nominated for both the City of Toronto Book Award and the Stephen Leacock Award for Humour, and was serialized on CBC Radio’s Between the Covers. In 2016, almost twenty years later, it was long-listed for Canada Reads and the translation was short-listed in Lithuania for Book of the Year. The book traces the lives of a family of immigrants to a Canadian suburb between the fifties and seventies. Some of these stories were anthologized in Dreaming Home, Canadian Short Stories, and the Penguin Anthology of Canadian Humour.
Antanas Sileika has worked frequently as a reviewer of books for radio, television, and print.
His third book, Woman in Bronze (2004), compared the seasonal life of a young man in Czarist Lithuania with his subsequent attempts to succeed as a prominent sculptor in Paris in the twenties. The novel was a Globe Best Book of that year.
His novel, Underground, appeared from Thomas Allen in 2011. The story is set in the underground resistance to the Soviet Union in the late 1940’s. It was named as one of the Globe and Mail’s 100 Best Books of 2011.
Here are some review highlights:
How are we going to survive unless we turn our hearts to stone?” a comrade warns the hero of Antanas Sileika’s Underground. The question is an example of the elegant thinking that characterizes this rare and compelling chronicle .
Toronto Globe and Mail
Sileika’s novel is a gripping tale, and the fate of Lukas – how long his luck runs – engages the reader to the last page.
Sileika writes with a spare style that suits the action sequences as well as the rare moments of tenderness or humour. Entertaining and sometimes shocking, the book describes a little-known period of European history that has been kept underground far too long.
Antanas’s memoir, The Barefoot Bingo Caller, was released in spring of 2017 by ECW. Author Miriam Toews called the memoir “Evocative, unfailingly honest, and dead-on funny.” The book received a starred review in Quill and Quire. The translation of this memoir, Basakojis Bingo Pranešėjas, went on to win book of the year for 2018 in Lithuania.
Provisionally Yours, a historical espionage novel set in Kaunas in the 1920’s , was published by Biblioasis in March of 2019. UK author Samantha Harvey said of the book, “I loved this novel.” Publishers Weekly called it “an urbane thriller.” and the Toronto Star called it “a finely honed political thriller.” The Lithuanian translation, called Laikinai Jūsų, published by Baltos Lankos, was positively reviewed in that country.
Photo by Liudas Masys