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Translations of female voices of Latvian literature

2020, March 18

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Books by Nora Ikstena, Regīna Ezera, Inga Ābele, Vizma Belševica and Māra Zālīte translated into 12 languages.

“Celebrating Life” (“Dzīves svinēšana”, Dienas Grāmata, 2017) written by Nora Ikstena was published by "Bokbyen Forlag" in Norvegian as “Feiringen av livets”, translated by Inga Bērziņa. The main character of this story, a peculiar woman named Eleonora, has invited seven colorful characters to her own funeral. Eleonora is peacefully laid to rest, but in the evening following the funeral, these seven people, seven ghosts from the past, share their memories of Eleonora, with the stories serving as the book’s “celebration of life.”

Nora Ikstena’s famous novel “Soviet Milk” (“Mātes piens”, Dienas Grāmata, 2015) was published in six more languages. Translated by Dahouk Rukiya and published by "Mamdouh Adwan" as “حليب سوفيتي” in Arabic; translated by Ayumi Kurosawa and published by "Shinhyoron Publishing" as “ソビエト・ミルク” in Japanese; translated by Lina Melnyk and published by "ПВД Твердиня" as “Mолоко Mатері” in Ukrainian; translated by Santa Domijan Zviedre and published by "Hena Com" as “Majčino Mlijeko” in Croatian; translated by Nicole Nau and published by "KLAK Verlag" as “Muttermilch” in German; translated by Laura Laurušaitė and published by "Tyto alba "as “Motinos pienas” in Lithuanian.

The novel deals with the post-war period and follows the fates of three generations of women, its narrative centering mostly on the 1970s and 1980s. Raised by a single mother, the central mother figure – a single mother herself – is a brilliant gynecologist who finds herself at odds with the dehumanizing effects of Communist ideology.

“The Well” (“Aka”, Zvaigzne ABC, 2015) written by Regīna Ezera was translated into Italian by Margherita Carbonaro and published by "Iperborea" as “Il pozzo”. The novel begins on the shores of a lake in the height of summer. Rudolf, a doctor from Rīga, is looking forward to spending some time away from work and plans to spend the time fishing on his own while lodging with an elderly couple on a lake. He comes into contact with the neighbours next door, the Tomariņi family, when he borrows their boat for his fishing trips.

Inga Ābele’s “Wicker Monk” (“Klūgu mūks”, Dienas Grāmata, 2014) was translated into Swedish by Juris Kronbergs and published by "Ariel Förlag" as “Vidjemunken”. It is a story about man’s thirst for the heavens, a man who was the first Latgalian priest in Latvia and who also was a pilot, about a man’s heart and senses, about sin and forgiveness. The main protagonist is based on Francis Trasuns, a Catholic priest with a master’s degree in theology, and a noted statesman who worked for the good of society. The 150th anniversary of his birth was in 2014.

Publishing house "Paperiporo" published the first part of the trilogy “Bille” (Mansards, 2016) written by Vizma Belševica and translated into Finnish by Mirja Hovila. “Bille” is the nickname of the novel’s main character, Sibilla Gūtmane, who observes an era filled with tragic events, 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.

Māras Zālīte’s novel “Five Fingers” (“Pieci pirksti”, Dienas Grāmata, 2018) was translated into two more languages. German translation by Nicole Nau was published by "KLAK Verlag" as “Fünf Finger” and Albanian translation by Eris Rusi was published by "Ombra Gvg" as “Pesë gishta”. “Fine Fingers” was the winner of the 2013 Annual Latvian Literature Award. It is a fictionalized childhood memoir in which the author describes her family’s return from Siberia to Latvia in the 1950s, and her life in Latvia in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

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