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.


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