Five books of Latvian literature about isolation


2020, May 6

Five books of Latvian literature about isolation

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This time around we would like to introduce you to 5 works of Latvian literature addressing various types of voluntary and forced isolation.

Anete Melece

Publisher: liels un mazs, 2019

The protagonist of the book is Olga who is trapped in her work place - a newsagent's kiosk. The thing is, Olga has gained so much weight that she is physically unable to get out of the kiosk. She spends her days selling newspapers, leafing through magazines and daydreaming of travel. Suddenly, and in a special way, Olga’s dream comes true! Currently, such circumstances are very relatable to us who are now stuck in our homes, fearful of becoming obese and longing for times when (if ever) we will be able to travel again. This sad and comical book “Kiosk” has already become an international best seller with publishing rights sold in 15 languages.

Alberts Bels

Publisher: Zvaigzne ABC, 2015 (Originally published by Liesma, 1972)

A vengeful man in a fit of jealousy locks architect Edmunds Bērzs in a cage meant for keeping horses in the woods. In his struggle to find the missing architect, criminal investigator Strūga gradually learns more about his seemingly insignificant personality. This rather tragic story has its bright side. Trapped in the cage, Bērzs is only able to obtain healthy sustenance – nuts, mushrooms and stock doves – which helps him get rid of his podagra and excess weight. Moreover, he has time to give into existential meditation allowing him to revisit his relationship with himself and society. “The Cage” has been published in English by the British “Peter Owen” publishing house.

Arvis Viguls

Publisher: 1/4 Satori, 2009

Arvis Viguls gave his debut collection a very concise, poetic and, from today’s perspective, isolation related, title “Room” (at the time we had no idea that his third book will have an even more poetic title, – “A Book”). This collection of poems has a rigid structure – it consists of four letters from a dying poet leading his reader through the “rooms” of his life. He guides you to the book shelf, shows you his bedroom, invites you to sit down in the living room, and, yes, even allows you in the bathroom and toilet. This collection earned Viguls the Annual Latvian Literature Award as the best debut. He was also named one of the Ten New Voices from Europe at the international London Book fair 2017.

Kristīne Ulberga

Publisher: Dienas Grāmata, 2017

The book is part of the historical novel series “Mēs. Latvija, XX gadsimts/ We. Latvia, the 20th century” and tells a story of a rebellious commune that in the 1980's willingly isolated themselves to distance themselves from the ideology of the Soviet Union, and to turn to spiritual practices instead. The book is based on a true story where a commune led by its informal leader, musician Andris Černovs, settled in an old house deep in the Vidzeme forests where they stayed until early 1990’s. Just like hippies in 1960’s America, they were discussing philosophical notions, studying nontraditional substances and, of course, at times expanding their consciousness with illegal substances. We can only guess if the news about a worldwide pandemic would have reached them by now. Another book by Ulberga "The Green Crow" has been published in English by the British “Peter Owen” publishing house.

Inese Zandere

Publisher: liels un mazs, 2017

The book tells a story about an eight-year-old boy Zigis, whose father is the legendary Žanis Lipke, a man who set up a secret room in their house during WW2 where he hid and saved from certain death several dozens of Jews. Documented facts interlace imagination exposing the little readers to the events of this complicated time and showing the most important lesson - to be humane, a value important always and under any circumstances. The first volume of the long story subtitled “Fear” is followed by two other books, referencing the pre-war practice of publishing novels in sequels. Inese Zandere’s novel has been adapted for Dāvis Sīmanis’ film “Father Night”.