Representation of Latvia and Latvians in Contemporary Latvian Literature

  • Maija Burima
Keywords: identity, personal identity, collective identity, Latvia, Latvians


Concepts ‘Latvia’ and ‘Latvians’ in literature are more closely than others related to tendencies of culture policy and historical and socio-economic changes. In Latvian literature there are not so many texts focusing on the Latvian nation and state as a phenomenon. The article regards representations of the national / state identity as the central strategic manifestations in contemporary Latvian literature. This strategy gets activated in complicated or dramatic moments of the history for the nation / state. Recent Latvian literature brings out the representation of two identity aspects: personal identity – individual self-perception based on one’s physical, intellectual, and moral peculiarities; group or social identity – individual self-characteristics based on belonging to particular social groups – ethnic, professional, etc. Within one literary work just one identity aspect may be represented but they may also overlap. At the turn of the first and second decades of the 21st century a number of texts were published with titles foregrounding the lexical units “Latvians”, “we” or some significant signs of the national culture. Aspects of the collective identity are widely discussed in several works of fiction the titles of which suggest common social and mental structures of contemporary Latvian population as preconditions for the existence of identity communities. The texts analyzed in the paper include Kārlis Vērdiņš’s poetry prose collection “Es” [I] (2008), Guntars Godiņš’s poetry collection “CV”, Nora Ikstena’s sketch “Par mums” [On Us] (2009), Vilis Lācītis’s novel “Strojka ar skatu uz Londonu” [Construction Site with a View of London] (2010), Otto Ozols’s novel “Latvieši ir visur” [Latvians are Everywhere] (2010).