10 September 13 | Chad W. Post | Comments

I mentioned this in my September translation overview post, but for those who missed it, we’re currently selling the ebook version of High Tide for $3.99.

The book itself—which is amazing, more on that below—officially releases on September 26th. So, this week the ebook is $3.99, next week it’ll be $5.99, then $7.99, reaching it’s normal full $9.99 list price on the day that the print version comes out.

In other words, you should buy yours now.

It’s not up on iBookstore yet, because Apple is slow, but here are the other links: Amazon, Nook, and Kobo.

Translated by Kaija Straumanis, our editor and one of the first graduates of the University of Rochester MA in literary translation program, High Tide is one of the first Latvian novels to be published in America. Ābele, a contemporary playwright, poet, and novelist, was featured in Dalkey’s Best European Fiction anthology, where Aleksandar Hemon referred to her as a “sharp realist.”

Here’s the jacket copy:

Told more or less in reverse chronological order, High Tide is the story of Ieva, her dead lover, her imprisoned husband, and the way their youthful decisions dramatically impacted the rest of their lives. Taking place over three decades, High Tide functions as a sort of psychological mystery, with the full scope of Ieva’s personal situation—and the relationship between the three main characters—only becoming clear at the end of the novel.

One of Latvia’s most notable young writers, Ābele is a fresh voice in European fiction—her prose is direct, evocative, and exceptionally beautiful. The combination of strikingly lush descriptive writing with the precision with which she depicts the minds of her characters elevates this novel from a simple story of a love triangle into a fascinating, philosophical, haunting book.

On a more personal note, our local international book club read and discussed this last week, and everyone unanimously loved it. In fact, one participate read it all the day of the book club and wept—on several occasions. This book is powerful, beautiful, and provides a sense of Latvia without being too wedded to the history or politics of the country.

Casey O’Neil at Elliott Bay Book Company is a huge fan of the book as well, and even wrote up this blurb:

Starting with the end and moving back toward the beginning, we follow Ieva as experience washes over her, as love transforms over time, as traumatic events wreak havoc forever even as they’re over in an instant. The book’s reverse trajectory both accentuates and softens the trauma, as our knowledge of what’s about to happen interacts with our experience of each moment. Ābele’s rendering of Ieva’s endurance is both matter of fact and transcendent, making this a novel that brings real light to real darkness. Its moving finale actually brought me to tears.

Point being, this book baller and you should buy it for $3.99. Right now.

26 November 12 | Kaija Straumanis |

When it comes to the representation of lesser-known countries and their literatures, I’m clearly one to have a personal bias toward pitching anything Latvian to the world at large (moment of self-promotion: Open Letter Books will be publishing the English translation of Latvian author Inga Ābele’s novel High Tide in fall 2013), but the fact of the matter is that the problems behind spreading the love of translated literature—be it an issue of finding translators, publishers, or readers—applies to any small country that’s trying to introduce itself to the English-speaking literary market (and also applies to the translation and publishing of foreign literatures in general). So it was much to my delight that an article titled “Unchain My Language!” popped up on Euronews.net a few weeks ago showcasing Latvian author Inga Žolude, one of the 2011 European Union Prize for Literature winners.

The video and transcript of the interview were prepared by Euronews.net’s “Generation Y,” who traveled to Latvia (FATHERLAND!!!) to talk with Žolude, as well as her translator, Suzanne McQuade, and others involved in the Latvian literary and publishing industry on the topic of Latvian literature in translation. In addition to lauding Žolude’s accomplishments as a young writer, the article touches on the difficulties of getting foreign literature published abroad, especially when that literature is being written in languages largely unspoken outside its respective country’s borders.

While it’s not entirely clear why the good people of Generation Y (and their endearingly questionable use of video graphics) came to pick Latvia as their destination, their choice was a good one, and the interview gives Žolude and the other interviewees the opportunity to make some excellent statements and observations on literary translation and its finer points. And though they ultimately bring up topics that are often discussed in the world of literary translation, the importance of these topics cannot be stressed or repeated enough.

Generation Y traveled to Riga to meet Inga Zolude, a 28-year-old Latvian writer, who was one of the winners of the European Union Prize for Literature last year.

“I think there should be an interest in Latvian literature because Latvian Literature is unique, it is different and specific, it’s very high quality literature. I hope that the time when it is fully discovered on a bigger scale is approaching,” she says.

That is what this is all about. The European Prize for Literature aims to promote the circulation of books in a continent where the diversity of languages is often a barrier.

In addition to the video, Generation Y also linked to translation samples of Žolude’s work, the English sample of which you can find here.

17 February 12 | Chad W. Post | Comments

The sample below is from Kaija Straumanis’s translation of Latvian author Inga Ābele’s Paisums (High Tide) which we discuss in this week’s podcast. Even if you don’t listen to the podcast (and if you don’t, why not?), you should take a look at this—it’s a really interesting book.

In the Beginning

God didn’t create words.

In the beginning there was a dream.

And at the end there was again nothing but a dream.

God appeared to a woman in a dream that was like death.

God found the woman within the dream and said to her:

“If you agree to live your life in reverse, you’ll have the power to give life back to your lover, who died young. Just don’t get your hopes up—your meeting at that crossroads will last about twenty minutes, no more. Then he’ll continue on toward old age, but you, back to childhood.”

The woman agreed immediately.

God said:

“How strange. Do you really value your own life and experiences so little that you’re willing to undo it all without a second thought?”

The woman said nothing.

She remembered this dream when she awoke.


Turns Out—We’ve Lived

She doesn’t need any more advice—patterns, examples. Maybe it’s just a whole new level, but right now she doesn’t need it. She doesn’t read books, newspapers or magazines, doesn’t use the Internet or watch TV, doesn’t go—God forbid—to the theater. It’s like being wrapped in a blanket up to your chin: you see and hear everything, but can’t move a muscle. Everything is right there around you, within arms’ reach. She wanders the house and now and then picks up something, grabs onto something, touches on something. A sentence from a newspaper, a phrase from a Mexican soap opera, an idea from Proust. They’re all always going to be right.

On her walks, Ieva goes around the forest in circles. Then on her birthday she asks herself a question—why do I walk in circles, like a dog chained to a post? Because of my fears? Only because of my harsh, bitter fears? I can walk in a straight line, she tells herself—and whenever I want. So when she does finally walk straight she only feels like she’s actually getting anywhere. Her surroundings change, but the content doesn’t. Big cities are all essentially the same, and every country has farmers wearing plaid, made-in-China shirts. Any new place that she ends up, she eventually has a close group of friends a lot like the last. The group will always have a mentor, a lover, someone she’ll betray, someone who’ll betray her, an enemy, and friends she can talk to and find spiritual healing with, saving money on therapy.

Once in a while she breaks from the campaigns, the marathons, the expeditions, and returns to the doghouse and sits next to her chain. Sits absolutely still, like a Bedouin gazing into the distance, and then writes. Script writing is usually complicated, but all of her scripts are about the same thing. All very clichéd, and when she tries to make excuses to the director he tells her: I need you precisely for the clichés. Because the ending needs to be something predictable.

Her scripts are about how nothing happens because nothing can ever happen. Not a single molecule is lost in the eternal cycle between the earth and the heavens. Only a pure soul can hope to break free from the carousel of life and death, into the cosmos through the tunnel of light and at a speed that makes everything down to the smallest particle feel simultaneously heavy and weightless. Everything shrinks until it disappears, until it’s erased from the memory of the world along with its time. But to live your life until your soul is pure—don’t laugh, it’s not that easy—you have to become a Buddha, a Christ or a Mohammed. You have to become light itself, a pure soul. Then you can be on your way. But it’s a long way and you’ll be scrubbed, doused, and wrung clean until then. Those few mistakes that will haunt you, jolt you awake at night, and force you to keep going on, these mistakes that you carry with you your entire life—in the end they’ll destroy you. But keep thinking about them, keep thinking. It’s gratifying to keep picking away at them. It will heal you.

Eventually she doesn’t even write the scripts herself anymore, just touches up those written by others and sends them in. She takes the finished product and objectively embellishes them. She’s done work like that before—adding details to bulletin posters in her school days, a pioneer in the last generation of an aggressive Soviet empire. Her homeroom teacher called it “giving life” to something. “Take it to Ieva,” the teacher often said, “she’ll give it some life.” And Ieva would take her black marker and give the dull pencil sketches some life, be it Lenin or the Easter Bunny. A wavering shadow in the distance, a gleam in Lenin’s eye, and the tense muscles in his jaw, something she’d seen in her father’s face when he shaved in the morning. And Lenin would come to life. The Easter Bunny would, too.

Everything is proof of it—this forced gift of existence—even the tired face of a small-town bus driver in the early morning; it speaks of longing, the endless patience you have when scrutinizing good fortune that has unexpectedly dropped into your lap. And what does life offer in return…the quiet hum inside the bus where you can warm up, a change from the frozen and bleak winter landscape… What does it offer in return? A kiss goodbye from your wife before you head out, and the mildly bitter taste of coffee with cream? The early morning fog and a dead moose on the side of a road? Like an Indian who gets glass beads in return for gold, you trade the suffering of existence in return for the smell of baking bread. The feel of a dog’s wet nose against your hand. The look in your children’s eyes. A bird feeder. May it all bring you joy, says this opposing, unwanted, huge opportunity—Life. Truth everywhere, like rows and rows of weeds that need only a bit of rain to grow: a handful of TV shows, a handful of philosophical essays, a handful of tight-lipped snobs, a handful of bartering vendors.

Her mother’s mother, Gran, used to say: you’ll never know where you’ll lose something or where you’ll find it, and, if you knew where you’d fall, you’d put a pillow down first. In many ways Gran hadn’t outgrown childhood, had never experienced passion, never been disillusioned. She remained an innocent; that was her destiny. Her cheerful daily greetings were proof she had never discovered herself, her own anger, or her deeply hidden doubts. Doing so would mean being sent into freedom, out of the Garden of Eden. She had stayed in Eden, playing in rows of sun ripened, wild strawberries. And among the bustle were all life’s sentences—her parents’ deaths, her husband and children, the people she loved. But she never said “love” because she didn’t know the word, hadn’t evolved to words. Gran had been her parents’ pride and joy, a helper at the dairy farm with her white apron and silky ash-blonde hair, someone who never grew to know hatred. More precisely, she was oblivious to any daggers of hatred aimed at her. Instead, they went through her like she was nothing because she didn’t believe in bad people—just people. Her only sins were her pride and self-reliance. She always had tickets for sugar and bread, but also always had more for extra things. A kind word and a helping hand, the sense to put others before herself; she believed it was her choice and responsibility. She didn’t need anything from the Lord God, just some nice Lutheran Christmas songs and spiritual peace. She hadn’t unlocked that little door in her heart that led to spite. She stayed in her bud; her entire life spent in it and as a child. God and humanity attack these kinds of people more than anyone else because there’s something obnoxious about them. But neither God, nor humanity can use their endless recipes for disaster on these people because these people lack any trace of hate—and God can take a vacation since there’s no one to peddle vices to. Having fulfilled her duty to everyone she loved, Gran quickly retreated to her inner child, back into that bud. A small, polite girl who always walked on the sunny side of the street. And that’s how she ended her journey. She was stuck in her bud, in her helpless innocence, and then all the world’s charges were piled on top of her. Stay helpless as a baby, an animal, a prisoner, a fool, an alcoholic, a one-legged bum in a tunnel—and the world will quickly chafe you until you bleed, and you’ll understand why you’ve always needed God. You put Heaven on a pedestal while you still have the strength. And when you grow weak you see the devil. Not the one with horns and a tail, but the devil in the hurried compassion of the fast-paced world, the one that will kill you with kindness. [. . .]


Mother

Mother tries to remember where she’s seen it before.

Faces peering at her from a glaring brightness.

Big eyes. Lips that are saying something, smiling, cooing, scolding. Faces that pull her from the comforting darkness and into the light.

An avenue.

For a moment she sees her father; he points out the leaves overhead. She is a child in her stroller, a child absorbing every single detail. She sees the leaves and becomes them, submerges herself in them and their silky movement.

The faces in this narrow room are like the leaves. They form a canopy high overhead, full of rustling movement and a teasing wind. The faces look at her as she lies there like a dried-up worm, wedged between the body pillow and the wall. A pair of hands throw open the curtains—a window fills with light.

“Good morning! Time to get up,” a light voice says.

The face leans in very close—it’s a woman’s face.

Mother opens an eye. The other is crusted over with pus. She looks at the faces and her toothless mouth whispers a few syllables in greeting. Mother is afraid of the daytime, afraid of the daily routine. She’ll be rolled over, picked up, moved, washed—it hurts and it makes her uneasy. Mother wants to tell them she doesn’t understand why she needs to get up anymore. She’s tired, but they won’t leave her alone.

“And the worst is she somehow gets in there with her left hand. She grabs and tears at the diaper and then smears shit all over the place. She’s out of her mind. I’ve got to change the bedding twice a day—all of it.”

Mother closes the one eye and pretends this talk isn’t about her. For several years now her good eye has been covered by a film, a rapidly swirling fog with tiny black spots.

“You have to figure something out. I’m sure you can do something like tie a shirt over her chest,” says a second voice that’s lower, infused with darkness.

Mother likes that voice better.

“She doesn’t get in from the top, but from the bottom along her thigh. The entire bed is flooded by morning. She pees so, so much. And if there’s shit I can’t even come in here without gagging. You wouldn’t believe the smell,” the first voice complains, white and clear as a ray of light.

You can’t hide from that voice, so Mother just shuts her eye tighter.

“Maybe like something for a baby. A onesie that buttons up the sides.”

“Won’t work. Since the last treatment she’s completely lost it. Look at how small she is—but she’s heavy, as heavy as a rock. She’s dead weight, ten times heavier than me. I make her stand up so her legs won’t totally atrophy. A few minutes a day. When I come home from work I have her sit up. You can’t believe how hard it is. I’ve sprained my back—it hurts. No, no, no. No onesies, no pants. She can’t even lift her legs. It would just mean extra clothes for me to wash. No, no, no. I had an idea yesterday—I’ll secure the diaper with electrical tape. Or a wide strip of duct tape. What do you think?”

“You can’t do that, Mom. Her skin will get infected.”

“You think so? Well, then I don’t know.”

Mother pretends she is dead. Pretends this stupid conversation isn’t about her. People only talk like that about children who misbehave. She’s not a bad child, never has been. No, no, no. [. . .]


Andrejs’s Religion

Andrejs very carefully took two fragile champagne flutes in his calloused hands and handed them to the woman. Then he took the card leaning against the wall behind the glasses and sat on a stool next to the small table. He studied the yellowed paper as intensely as a war refugee who’s been pulled from the water and given a passport, and who can’t believe this thing could save his life.

The card was drawn with lead pencil on regular notebook paper and then glued to cardboard. Its edges were decorated with barbed wire, which connected at the top in a knot around a red rose. The lettering For Ludmila—Ruslans was separated by a date, in which the number two looked like a swan with a proudly curving neck. The drawing also had the North Star and the aurora borealis. Small lettering at the bottom read: She dreamt that in the Caucasus steppe…

So she wasn’t an accountant! So that’s where he’d seen that handwriting and date before! How could he forget?

Andrejs asked:

“Ludmila?”

“Yes.”

She sat on the opposite stool at the table and twirled a strand of hair around her finger. Like she was flustered, clueless. When she lifted her eyes to meet his, they were bright with tears.

“That’s the last card my husband sent me.”

She wanted to tell him more, but he silenced her with an impatient gesture. He still couldn’t decide if he should go home right away or later. If he started to talk now, it would mean he wouldn’t go home until later.

But he started to talk. He hadn’t become a heartless monster yet.

“You don’t need to tell me. I drew this.”

The expressions on the woman’s face changed as quick as the wind, chasing after one another like the shadows of falling leaves—while she sat very stiff and straight, her eyes searching his face to figure out what his words could mean.

“Ruslans and I met at the Central Prison Hospital. He was already admitted when I was brought in. We were together for a week, or less, I don’t remember. In any case no more than a week. I was there when he died.”

The woman let out a weak scream, and the tears finally overflowed. She wiped the wetness across her cheeks with the back of her hand. Andrejs handed her a towel, which she immediately bundled up into a kind of squirrel’s nest and hid her face in it. He waited patiently for her to look up again.

“You could say I was the prison artist. I framed photographs by sewing plastic wires around the edges, drew on materials using safety pins and colored thread, etched wood, sketched. Ruslans found out and showed me your handwriting. Asked me to draw a card and write the words like you did. He really liked your handwriting. I recognized it right away, but thought that you worked at the prison as an accountant.”

The woman nodded feebly. She rummaged in a drawer without looking away from him and placed a candle on the table. She burned her fingers with the first match.

“Tell me how he died,” she said, her voice somber.

“He died at night. I was writing a letter to my wife, he was lying down. I thought he’d fallen sleep. Then he suddenly started coughing, ran to the door and banged on it like crazy. All at once, about a bucket of blood spewed from his mouth. And then he fell over. I lifted him a bit and held him, but he had already started with the death shakes. The guards came and took him away.”

There was a moment of silence.

“Don’t worry, it happened quickly. He didn’t suffer. It was over the second he ran to the door. Later the nurses said one of his pulmonary veins had burst.”

More silence.

“But he managed to send the card out. When’s your birthday? Sometime in May, right?”

“May second.”

“And what’s this about the Caucasus, if it’s not a secret?”

“He was a really good person,” she finally said.

“I know. So what about the Caucasus?”

The woman thought for a bit.

“She dreamt that in the Caucasus steppe—
He lay still, a bullet in his breast . . .
And yet, I am Ruslan’s now,
And will be faithful to my vow.”

Andrejs propped the card against the windowpane so its edges were surrounded by the reflection of the candlelight.

The woman said:

“We liked poetry, like Pushkin’s ‘Ruslan and Ludmila.’ I’d read it to him when our kids were still little. Before he got mixed up in that damn gang and robbed that gas station… He was so surprised that there was a poem like that—about us, he said—just imagine! About us!”

The woman stood and opened the refrigerator. She pushed the champagne toward Andrejs, having suddenly grown very calm. He opened the bottle just as calmly and poured the chilled liquid into the glasses. In the reflection of the flame, the bubbles dancing in the sparkling wine seemed like lonely planets.

18 May 11 | Chad W. Post | Comments

The latest addition to our Reviews Section is a piece by Jessica LeTourneur on Sandra Kalniete’s With Dance Shoes in Siberian Snows, translated from the Latvian by Margita Gailitis and available from Dalkey Archive Press.

This book is part of Dalkey’s “Baltic Literature Series,” and is one of the rare nonfiction hardcovers that they’ve published. It’s also one of maybe three works translated from Latvian and published in the U.S. over the past few years.

Jessica LeTourneur is one of our frequent reviewers, despite being a Cubs fan. She studied literature, history, and journalism at the University of Missouri, and attended New York University’s Publishing Institute in 2005. In the past, Jessica has worked as a journalist, as well as at The Missouri Review, the University of Missouri Press, and W. W. Norton & Company. Currently, Jessica is the copyeditor for the journal Southern California Quarterly, and is finishing up her Master’s degree in History and Scholarly Publishing at Arizona State University.

Here’s the opening of her review:

With Dance Shoes in Siberian Snows is an ambitious and uniquely constructed work of literary nonfiction. Published as a part of the Baltic Literature Series by Dalkey Archive Press, this moving and eloquent book tells the story of author Sandra Kalniete’s Latvian family, and the harrowing hardships they endured over the course of fifty years and three occupations—longer than any other European nation experienced in the twentieth century. In telling her family’s story, Kalniete also tells the story of Latvia’s twentieth-century history, illuminating an often-neglected, largely ignored, nation’s struggles with the twin plagues infecting Europe in the twentieth century: communism and fascism. At first glance a family memoir, With Dance Shoes in Siberian Snows is so much more than a personal memoir. It is a literary and historical tour de force whose searing indictment of Nazi Germany’s and the Soviet Union’s policies of terror and oppression teaches readers that while these policies may have broken human bodies, it could not break the bonds of family.

Sandra Kalniete was born in 1952 to Latvian parents who had been permanently exiled to Siberia. In 1957 she and her family were finally allowed to return to their home country, four long years after Stalin’s death in 1953. Kalniete’s bold prose and artistic narrative style convey the impression that she makes her living by her pen, and not her politics. In the 1980s and ‘90s Kalniete served as the Latvian Ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, France, and even to UNESCO. She became Latvia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs in 2002, and has since served as the first Latvian Commissioner of the European Union. Latvia’s present and future may reside in Kalniete’s professional life, but in her personal life, it is her country’s past which she takes to task, exploring the deepest recesses of her and her family’s memory in search of historical truths.

Click here to read the entire review.

18 May 11 | Chad W. Post | Comments

With Dance Shoes in Siberian Snows is an ambitious and uniquely constructed work of literary nonfiction. Published as a part of the Baltic Literature Series by Dalkey Archive Press, this moving and eloquent book tells the story of author Sandra Kalniete’s Latvian family, and the harrowing hardships they endured over the course of fifty years and three occupations—longer than any other European nation experienced in the twentieth century. In telling her family’s story, Kalniete also tells the story of Latvia’s twentieth-century history, illuminating an often-neglected, largely ignored, nation’s struggles with the twin plagues infecting Europe in the twentieth century: communism and fascism. At first glance a family memoir, With Dance Shoes in Siberian Snows is so much more than a personal memoir. It is a literary and historical tour de force whose searing indictment of Nazi Germany’s and the Soviet Union’s policies of terror and oppression teaches readers that while these policies may have broken human bodies, it could not break the bonds of family.

Sandra Kalniete was born in 1952 to Latvian parents who had been permanently exiled to Siberia. In 1957 she and her family were finally allowed to return to their home country, four long years after Stalin’s death in 1953. Kalniete’s bold prose and artistic narrative style convey the impression that she makes her living by her pen, and not her politics. In the 1980s and ‘90s Kalniete served as the Latvian Ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, France, and even to UNESCO. She became Latvia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs in 2002, and has since served as the first Latvian Commissioner of the European Union. Latvia’s present and future may reside in Kalniete’s professional life, but in her personal life, it is her country’s past which she takes to task, exploring the deepest recesses of her and her family’s memory in search of historical truths.

In my childhood, the past was only mentioned in connection with household incidents and family events, but almost never in its political or historic significance. I grew up under the influence of Soviet propaganda, knowing almost nothing about the real history of Latvia. The latter was totally buried in silence.

Seamlessly constructing a nation’s history out of a family story is a delicate narrative prospect, but Kalniete carries it off like a duck on a pond; we know the effort being carried out beneath the water’s surface, but all we see on the surface is a seemingly-effortless calm. Kalniete leads readers Dante-like through the memory of the unmitigated horrors and tragedies that befell her family with bold language that propels the reader through the labyrinth of memory. This was no easy task for Kalniete; Latvian historians are still not permitted access to USSR archival collections that could provide complete insight into the documents pertaining to the planning and execution of Latvia’s occupation by Soviet forces in June 1940. Not coincidentally, the date of occupation was purposely chosen as the same date of the German takeover of France—June 17, 1940. “What did the fate of the small Baltic States matter in comparison to this drama, which staggered Europe and the world? Thus we were left alone with our despair.” Limited archival access aside, Kalniete reaches into the deepest recesses of her memory, and asks her family to do the same, in order to narratively construct and accurately portray events which befell Latvia and its people in the mid-twentieth century. “’Constructing memory’ could very well be the subtitle of this book,” says Valters Nollendorfs in his foreword. Kalniete is forthright with her emotional reactions to what she learns, resulting in an emotionally moving passages that elicit a visceral reaction.

When I talked to my mother about the Bilina and Petropavlovka period during the preparatory phase for this book, I did not allow myself to feel. My objective was not to interrupt the thread of recollections and to question dispassionately in order to learn as much as possible how starvation emaciates a human body and alters the spirit. When I later listened to the taped conversations, their calm flow seemed unbearable to me, so abnormal was their content. The sad story told in my mother’s everyday voice singed me with sudden waves of pain. My body shook and I had to hang onto my desk to contain my uncontrollable sobs. I could not listen to my practical voice, repeating a question about how a rat tastes or wondering how my mother had not died from eating a horse cadaver.

Kalniete’s use of clipped, fast-paced language powerfully conveys the sense of fear and confusion that reigned during the early days of Soviet occupation. The urgency, the unknown that permeated Latvian families is imparted in passages such as these:

The uncertainty that ruled in society in those June days was staggering. The most unlikely rumors were circulating. Almost nothing of what was happening with the political elite was known, since the press and the radio were totally under the control of the occupiers . . . with each new day, the feeling of humiliation grew stronger. The sharp pain could not be silenced.

Kalniete’s sparing use of overly descriptive language and eloquently constructed metaphors creates a stark world which enhances the narrative success of With Dance Shoes in Siberian Snows. By utilizing linguistic simplicity, Kalniete allows emotions and emotional reactions to resonate within the reader. Far from being “cold,” you feel as though you are standing behind Kalniete’s shoulder in instances such as this:

When I have recovered from my contact with the barbarity of the prison camp death machine, I once again turn to the first page of the case file and start to read systematically and carefully. I don’t allow myself to feel emotional. However, on the fourth page a new emotional shock is in store for me. On the prisoner’s form, besides his signature, is my grandfather’s fingerprint. I dissolve into tears. I put my hand on my grandfather’s fingerprint and allow myself the illusion that our hands touch . . .”

There are times throughout the book when events are so boldly and graphically described it is almost painful to endure, such as when Kalniete describes, in painful detail, her grandfather’s death. “From that moment onward, with a distanced indifference, he watched as from his mouth, bit by bit, his lungs were spit out—in porous, pale and bloody lumps . . . Thus, drowning in blood, my grandfather Alekdandrs Kalnietis’ life ended.” Beautifully written and astonishingly simple in the emotion it conveys, passages such as this permeate With Dance Shoes in Siberian Snows. Following thematic, rather than a linear chronological organization, With Dance Shoes in Siberian Snows reads more like a novel than a true memoir or piece of history, although it is both. Such a narrative organization contributes to the book’s ultimate success.

Following Latvian deportees’ “gradual descent into hell” is an expressively harrowing experience that impressed itself upon the reader’s psyche long after the past page has been turned. Elegant in its simplicity of language and bold in its emotional vulnerability, With Dance Shoes in Siberian Snows is ultimately a beautifully told story of a family and country’s resilience, survival, and revival.

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Stealth by Sonallah Ibrahim
Reviewed by Christopher Iacono

From the late 1940s to the early 1950s, Egypt was going through a period of transition. The country’s people were growing unhappy with the corruption of power in the government, which had been under British rule for decades. The Egyptians’. . .

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Miruna, a Tale
Miruna, a Tale by Bogdan Suceavă
Reviewed by Alta Ifland

Miruna is a novella written in the voice of an adult who remembers the summer he (then, seven) and his sister, Miruna (then, six) spent in the Evil Vale with their grandfather (sometimes referred to as “Grandfather,” other times as. . .

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Kamal Jann
Kamal Jann by Dominique Eddé
Reviewed by Lori Feathers

Kamal Jann by the Lebanese born author Dominique Eddé is a tale of familial and political intrigue, a murky stew of byzantine alliances, betrayals, and hostilities. It is a well-told story of revenge and, what’s more, a serious novel that. . .

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