White Shroud (Balta drobule, 1958) is considered by many to be Lithuania's most important work of modernist fiction. Drawing heavily on the author's own refugee and immigrant experience, this psychological, stream-of-consciousness work tells the story of an emigre poet working as a bellhop in a large New York hotel during the mid-1950s. Via multiple narrative voices and streams, the novel moves through sharply contrasting settings and stages in the narrator's life in Lithuania before and during WWII, returning always to New York and the recent immigrant's struggle to adapt to a completely different, and indifferent, modern world.
Skema uses language and allusion to destabilise, drawing the reader into an intimate, culturally and historically specific world to explore universal human themes of selfhood, alienation, creativity and cultural difference. Written from the perspective of a newcomer to an Anglophone country, the novel encourages an understanding of the complexities of immigrant life.