Māris Bērziņš (1962) is a writer and playwright. Māris Bērziņš has worked in the Ministry of Culture, and the Ministry of Economics of the Republic of Latvia, he established and for a while managed the State Culture Capital Foundation, as well as the Electricity Regulatory Board, and the Utilities Regulatory Board of Riga. After this colourful career Māris Bērziņš decided to turn to literature and currently works as a full time writer. His novel Taste of Lead (2015) has been included in the series of historical novels We. Latvia. The 20th Century. The novel focuses on the World War II period from 1939 – 1941 when Latvia was occupied by the Soviet Russia, and by Germany. Based on a thorough research and interviews with a ghetto survivor, the novel discusses the subject of the Holocaust in Latvia, emphasizing the global significance of these events. This novel has won several prestigious literary awards in Latvia and has been adapted for theatre at the National Theatre of Latvia (2016, director Valers Sīlis). It is now one of the milestones in Latvian literature since Bēriziņš was the first to dedicate a novel solely to this subject matter.
Māris Bērziņš’s collection of short fiction Gutenmorgen is written in the manner of absurd anecdotes about a character named Gutenmorgen. It was first published in 2007, and repeatedly put in print in 2009. Several of the stories about Gutenmorgen have been turned into short films, e.g., Gutenmorgen and the Time Machine (2009, director Elīna Ļihačova). Gutenmorgen has gradually become Māris Bērziņš's alter ego, and he continues to write stories about his adventures. This character is the embodiment of the particular taste and lightness of humour that Māris Bērziņš possesses as an author.
The character Pigman / Cūkmens from Māris Bērziņš's book for children The Fat Stranger has become an image and symbol of nature-friendly attitude nationwide. Māris Bērziņš is an active member of the Latvian Writers' Union.
Svina Garša [Taste of Lead]. Riga: Dienas Grāmata, 2015.
Sveiks, Dzintar Mihail! [Hello, Dzintars Mihails!]. Riga: Dienas Grāmata, 2013.
Titāna skrūves [Titanium Screws]. Riga: Dienas Grāmata, 2011.
Gūtenmorgens [Gutenmorgen]. Riga: Karogs, 2007; Riga: Mansards, 2009.
Ērika Trauma sapnis [Ēriks Traums’ Dream]. Riga: Pētergailis, 2003.
Resnais svešinieks [The Fat Stranger]. Rīga: Liels un mazs, 2008.
Iztēlojies. Trīs lugas [Imagine. Three Plays]. Rīga: Mansards, 2009.
Laika pavēlnieki [Commanders of Time]. Short prose for sculptures of Aigars Bikše. Riga: Dienas Grāmata, 2011.
Books to fall for
Taste of Lead
Taste of Lead (Svina garša)
The Taste of Lead was the winner of the 2015 Baltic Assembly Prize and of the 2015 Annual Latvian Literature Award.
Latvian writer and literary critic Ilze Jansone had this to say about the book: “Matīss, the main character created by Māris Bērziņš for his new novel, is not a war hero of any kind. He is an everyman who only gradually comes to realize what it means for him to belong to a certain nation, a young lad with the same desires as any other boy of his age has had throughout human history. Quite in line with many classical literary works having a historical focus, Matīss’s ordinariness is precisely where the power of this novel can be said to reside. He is devoid of jingoism; the only engine driving him is his natural human need to enjoy his youth undisturbed and gradually find his ground, which is why his actions are not premeditated and derive from a simple love for all humankind. Māris Bērziņš’ novel could be seen as quite an extraordinary landmark in the literary landscape of Latvia, as its author has underlined themes that have not garnered particular attention thus far. The kinds of detail that has been predominant in Latvian works on the Second World War have been descriptions of battles, memories concerning legionnaires, the Siege of Kurzeme, the deportations, and the second period of Soviet occupation or, largely, the war activity and descriptions of the Communist regime, possibly due to the fact that it impacted Latvia for a longer period of time and with farther-reaching consequences than the German occupation. The horror and absurdity of the communist regime are described by Māris Bērziņš in precise detail pertaining to that initial period of occupation, in a spare and refined writing style, concluding the story with a narrative account of the occupation by the National Socialists.”
Contacts: Mrs. Dace Sparāne-Freimane, email@example.com
Taste of Lead
Rīga, Dienas grāmata
All languages available
Undīne Adamaite, interview with Māris Bērziņš// Culture newspaper Kultūras Diena, 2015 [LV]
Līga Rušeniece, interview with Māris Bērziņš// NRA newspaper [LV]
Bārbala Simsone, Garšo pēc lodes, review of Taste of Lead // Internet magazine Punctum, 2015 [LV]
Kristīne Ilziņa, Paradoksu meistars, review of Taste of Lead // Diena.lv, 2015, [LV]
Undīne Adamaite, Galvenajā lomā – pati grāmata, theatre review of Taste of Lead // The Latvian National Theatre, 2016 [LV]
Review of the exhibition THE TIME WILL SAVE HISTORY// Galery Māksla XO homepage, 2010 [EN]
2016, Annual Latvian Literature Award, the Best Prose Work, for Taste of Lead
2015, the Baltic Assembly Prize for Literature for Taste of Lead
2015, Dzintars Sodums Award for Taste of Lead
2009, Latvian Literature Award as the Best Drama Work of the Year for Imagine. Three Plays
Taste of Lead / Best European Fiction
Taste of Lead / Best European Fiction (Fragments no romāna "Svina garša")
Title: Taste of Lead / Best European Fiction
Title*: Fragments no romāna "Svina garša"
Dalkey Archive Press, United States
A fragment in English of Māris Bērziņš awarded novel "Taste of lead" in an anthology "Best European Fiction 2017".