Vizma Belševica (1931 – 2005) is a Latvian poet, writer and translator. She was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature. She spent most of her childhood in prewar Riga, the capital city of then democratic Latvia. Riga is often featured in her works, especially her famous autobiographic trilogy, however, the time she spent at the countryside with relatives also had a lasting impact on her writing. Despite growing up in a poor family, she spent much of her time reading classical literature. Vizma Belševica's poetry was first published in 1947, and 1955 saw the publishing of her her first book of poems. During the post-Soviet period, Belševica wrote three semi-autobiographical books about a girl called Bille, following her life from the late 1930s, throughout the first year of Soviet occupation of Latvia (1940–41), the Nazi occupation (1941–45), and the first post-war years under Stalin's regime: Bille/Bille, 1992, 95), Bille un karš/Bille and (1996), Billes skaistā jaunība/The Wonderful Youth of Bille (1999). On December 6, 1990, she was elected honorary member of the Latvian Academy of Sciences; and has received the highest award of the Latvian State – the Order of the Three Stars. Belševica's poetry and fiction has been translated in nearly 40 languages. Her poems were translated into English by Inara Cedrins for the anthology Contemporary Latvian Poetry published by the University of Iowa Press in 1983.
"Visu ziemu šogad pavasaris". Rīga: LVI, 1955.
"Zemes siltums". Rīga: LVI, 1959.
"Jūra deg". Rīga: Liesma, 1966.
"Gadu gredzeni". Rīga: Liesma, 1969.
"Madarās". Rīga: Liesma, 1976.
"Kamola tinēja". Rīga: Liesma, 1981.
"Dzeltu laiks". Rīga: Liesma, 1987.
"Ķikuraga stāsti". Rīga: Liesma, 1965.
"Nelaime mājās". Rīga: Liesma, 1979.
"Bille. Triloģija" (autobiogrāfisks romāns)
"Bille". Itaka (ASV): Mežābele, 1992; Rīga: Jumava, 1995.
"Bille un karš" [sākotnēji "Bille dzīvo tālāk"]. Rīga: Jumava, 1996.
"Billes skaistā jaunība". Rīga: Jumava, 1999.
"Lauzta sirds uz goda dēļa". Rīga: Zvaigzne ABC, 1997.
"Ceļreiz ceļš uz pasaciņu". Rīga: Liesma, 1985.
"Zem zilās debesu bļodas". Rīga: 1987.
"Patiess stāsts par Čingo Babu, Lielo Gliemezi un Jūras Karaļa bēdām". Rīga: Liels un mazs, 2007.
"Ievziedu aukstums". Rīga: Liesma, 1988 [dzejas izlase].
"Baltās paslēpes". Rīga: Artava, 1991 [mīlas lirikas izlase].
"Par saknēm būt". Rīga: Zvaigzne ABC, 1996 [dzejas izlase].
"Raksti", 1.-4. sējums". Rīga: Jumava, 1999—2002.
"Atdzeja". Rīga: Atēna, 2004 [atdzejojumu izlase].
"Nepazītā mīlestība un citi stāsti". Rīga: Mansards, 2016.
"Bille, Anss un citi". Rīga: Mansards, 2017.
Books to fall for
The first volume of Bille was published in 1992, with Bille Lives On (Bille dzīvo tālāk) and Bille’s Wonderful Youth (Billes skaistā jaunība) published in 1996 and 1999 respectively. The entire trilogy was released in a single volume in 2004. Bille is the nickname of the novel’s main character, Sibilla Gūtmane, who observes an era filled with tragic events, and much of which was hard to understand, even for adults. Bille, unlike most other children portrayed in Latvian literature, is a city girl. The author avoids any nostalgia about the lost paradise of childhood and, using her actual memories, shows life in the workers’ district of Grīziņkalns and the life of the Gūtmanis family during the late 1930s and early 1940s. The result is 75 separate stories told in chronological order. Bille goes to school and visits her country relatives; as the regimes change, Bille grows up and, with the adults, she must endure periods of starvation, she helps people imprisoned in the Jewish ghetto, and she visits the countryside to exchange what things they do have for food. Each episode represents a moment stuck in her mind forever. Bille has been published in Swedish and Russian translation, while selections of her poetry have been published in translation in Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Iceland.
Rīga, Mansards (originally published by Mežābele, 1992)
Rights sold in Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Iceland
2004, the Annual Latvian Literature Award for best translation of poetry
2002, the Annual Latvian Literature Award, Lifetime Achievement
1994, the Order of Three Stars