Lithuania erects sculpture in honor of J.D. Salinger
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Lithuania erects sculpture in honor of J.D. Salinger

Statue featuring rye field dedicated to Jewish ‘Catcher in the Rye’ author, close to village where his ancestors lived

People look and photograph the new statue of American writer Jerome David Salinger in Paminklas, Lithuania, June 19, 2020. (AP Photo/Vladas Sciavinskas)
People look and photograph the new statue of American writer Jerome David Salinger in Paminklas, Lithuania, June 19, 2020. (AP Photo/Vladas Sciavinskas)

VILNIUS, Lithuania (AP) — J.D. Salinger, the American writer best known for his 1951 novel “The Catcher in the Rye,” was honored Friday with a sculpture featuring a rye field near the Lithuanian village where his ancestors lived.

The writer, whose book was popular among the post-World War II generation of college students in the United States but was also banned there for decades, joined other another figure with a statue in Lithuania: singer Leonard Cohen, whose mother was born in Kaunas.

The history of the Salinger family goes back to Sudargas, a small Jewish settlement on the Lithuanian-Polish border in what was then the Russian Empire. Village records show that the Salingers had lived in Sudargas at least since 1831 after the writer’s great-grandfather, Hyman Joseph Salinger, moved there from the nearby town of Taurage. The village still exists but the Jewish settlement does not.

His grandson emigrated to the United States in 1881, during famine and married a Lithuanian immigrant in Pennsylvania. Jerome David Salinger was born in Manhattan, New York, in 1919.

J.D. Salinger working on ‘Catcher in the Rye’ during World War II. (photo credit: AP/The Story Factory, Paul Fitzgerald)

When his novel, depicting loss of innocence, was published, it became an immediate success in the Western world.

But at that time, Lithuania was occupied by the Soviet Union. Life during the Soviet-era was dominated by staged images of happiness and success, and was contrasted to grim images of capitalism with wars, strikes, homeless people and unemployed workers, among others.

“We did not have rock ’n’ roll, freedom or other things that young Americans enjoyed,” said Rolandas Skaisgirys, one of those behind the statue initiative.

People look at the new statue of American writer Jerome David Salinger in Paminklas, Lithuania, June 19, 2020 (AP Photo/Vladas Sciavinskas)

The sculpture is of a human silhouette cut out in a steel plate that is bent before a void. The metal plate is attached to a concrete block that carries the name J.D. Salinger above a rye field printed on the side of the block that is sticking out from a hill surrounded by a forest.

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