Classic and contemporary Latvian literature continues to be published abroad

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2019, March 4

Classic and contemporary Latvian literature continues to be published abroad

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Works of four Latvian authors are now available in English, Bulgarian and Hungarian.

It is safe to say that Jānis Joņevs’ “Jelgava 94” can be easily called a best seller. The book has now also been published in Bulgarian by "Izida Publishing House", translated by Albena Metodieva, in English as “Doom 94” by "Wrecking Ball", translated by Kaija Straumanis, and in Hungarian as “Metál” by "Vince Kiadó", translated by Tolgyesi Beatrix. The story that resonates with so many is one about the alternative culture of heavy metal music. The author takes you deep into the world of the genre, combining an intimate diary of a youngster who finds himself by joining a subculture with a skilful, detailed, and almost documentary-like depiction of the first years of the second independence of Latvia. Joņevs is the first writer to discuss memories of this period in a fully-fledged literary piece.

Kristīne Ulberga is a Latvian author. Her book “Green Crow” has been translated into English by Žanete Vēvere Pasqualini and published by "Peter Owen Publishers". In the book, Ulberga focuses on acceptance or the lack of it, both personal and in society at large, on personal isolation and the quest for individual freedom at all costs. It is a story of a woman in a psychiatric hospital and of her life-long companion that only she can see  the Green Crow. The green crow is a conceited, boisterous creature who follows the novel’s nameless protagonist throughout her life, until the day when the crow’s presence begins to embarrass her. Confined to a tedious domestic life, she is desperate to hide the crow’s very existence. Failing to do so, she is placed in a psychiatric hospital.

Rūdolfs Blaumanis is one of Latvia’s greatest writers and his famous short story “Nāves Ēnā” (In Death’s Shadow) was first published in Latvian in 1899 and now has been translated into English by Uldis Balodis and published by "Momentum Books". The story is based on a contemporary newspaper account and tells of several fishermen lost at sea after the ice floe on which they work calves off and drifts away rapidly. One by one, the thirteen men and a boy must deal with the creeping reality that they may not see the mainland – or their loved ones – again. Without ever moralising or over-elaborating, Blaumanis efficiently observes the state of each of the main characters in turn. In the shadow of encroaching death, each must come to some kind of reckoning.

Uldis Balodis is also the translator of Zigmunds Skujiņš’ “Nakedness”, now published in English by "Vagabond Voices". The story is about a young man who, after his military service in 1960s, runs straight into the arms of a beautiful woman with whom he has been corresponding for some time. The two have never met in person, and when the young man arrives at her door, he quickly becomes entangled in a bizarre mystery. She claims never to have written to him and appears to be involved with someone else. This novel will introduce the reader to a different world more for the quality of writing and its fresh dialogue, than for the society depicted, resembling in some ways Western Europe of the time. The novel reminds us that even in most hopeful of times the human condition is still a struggle with desires, ambitions, and the images we strive to project.