Posts by Inara Cedrins

Life in Grinding Years: Latvia in Transition and Translation

A conversation with Amanda Aizpuriete, Latvian poet and translator

Amanda Aizpuriete is a mystical poet. In conversation this past fall, she told me she writes “about places I haven’t been, lives I haven’t lived.” We met in Jurmala, a place whose name literally means “seashore” and which comprises a string of resort towns halfway between Riga and Kaugari, where Aizpuriete has lived all her life. Her mother was entitled to military housing there. Her children went to the same school she attended as a child. “I have lived through the most dramatic changes,” Aizpuriete says, who was born in 1956 and has published collections of poetry while Latvia was under Soviet control to the present.

“There was only one publisher at the start, and an ‘inside’ review was of the greatest importance.” She explained this meant a critique and recommendation of a prospective book by a well-known writer.

Aizpuriete studied philology and philosophy at the Latvian State University from 1974-1979, as well as at the M. Gorky Literature Institute’s Translation Seminary in Moscow from 1980-1984. Through this time, she met translators from Ukraine and Azerbaijan and discovered what she describes as “great writings,” just opening up to publishing in the mid-eighties when Gorbachev entered power. First to translate this work into Latvian, she interviewed Josef Brodsky a couple of years after he’d won the Nobel Prize, and translated his play Demokratija into Latvian with his collaboration. “This was a beautiful episode, done through relationships,” Aizpuriete says. As poetry editor for the magazine Avots (Wellspring) in the mid-eighties, Aizpuriete was able to see the debut of banned Latvians, those it was not possible to publish earlier. READ MORE…

Writing an Austere Richness

On a writer's complicated career

Jan Henrik Swahn was born in 1959 in Lund. He grew up in Copenhagen and from 1970 on has lived in Malmö. His first novel, I Can Stop a Sea, about life in two gangster’s houses in a poor village in Normandie, was published in 1986 by Bonniers, the biggest publishing house in Sweden. The ten novels that followed were all published by Bonniers, and he was chief editor of Bonniers Literary Magazine from 1997-1999.


Translating Vision and Thought

On Jaan Kaplinski

Jaan Kaplinski was born to an Estonian mother and Polish father in 1941 in Tartu, Estonia. His father was arrested by the NKVD for ‘possible subversive anti-Soviet activity’ and disappeared in the Gulag archipelago during the war, probably dying in 1943. Says Kaplinski: “He saw me, but I have no memory of having seen him.”