He was born in Weston, Ontario – the son of Lithuanian-born parents.
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 studied French, taught English in Versailles, and 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.
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. In 2015, the book was long listed for Canada Reads and the Lithuanian translation was nominated for Book of the Year.
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.
He is the director for the Humber School for Writers in Toronto, and is a past winner of a National Magazine Award.
His most recent 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 … From its opening lines, the novel strikes a haunting note … This story picks up speed as it goes along, hurtling into the future and an unanticipated conclusion.
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.
Sileika vividly brings this little-known (to us) and very sad chapter of European history alive…..
… the drama is exciting, haunting and instructional in turn. It opens with an explosive scene of startling violence, moves through episodes of mounting tension and dread, and concludes in a kind of lyricism.
His next books will be a memoir to be published by ECW Press in May of 2017.
Photo by Liudas Masys
Contact: Anne McDermid and Associates.