Fragments of Reality
London Book Fair 2018 and Baltic literature
Published : Thursday, 3 May, 2018 at 12:00 AM Count : 528
After three days of cross-cultural exchange between books, their authors and countries around the world London Book Fair (LBF) ended on 12 April at London Olympia. It started on 10 April 2018 with glamour, hope, power of books and literature and 25000 delegates from 130 countries, though not all countries have setup their stall in the fair. LBF is compact, compressed and vibrant. It is smaller in size in comparison with Frankfurt Book Fair but bigger in dimension in terms of its cross cultural exchange. I attend the LBF on 11 April 2018.
Authors are off course the heart of LBF. Baltic countries-Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia were the market focus countries in this year's LBF. So, many writers from Baltic regions have participated in the LBF. Some writers who participated in the English Pen's literary discussion include Mihkel Mutt from Estonia, Nora Ikstena from Latvia and Kristina Sabaliauskaite from Lithuania. Readers, writers, visitors and translators have learned about their works.
Dr Kristina Sabaliauskaite is considered as most widely read Lithuanian fiction author. Her novel "Silva Rerum" was shortlisted for a Central European Literary prize. "Silva Rerum" tetralogy is a historical novels set in the period from 1659 to 1795. In this novel almost hundred and fifty years of the country's history are told in the lives and events of four generations. Some critics have compared Kristina's work with Umberto Eco and Gabriel Garcia Marquez for its intellectual depth and sensuality.
A renowned Polish writer Olga Tokarczuk mentioned this book as, "a splendidly written, marquesian novel which takes place in 17th century Lithuania and eventually reminds us that the history of Central Europe is our shared narrative�"
LBF presents some other Lithuanian writers' literary works such as Tomas Venclova, Undine Radzeviciute and Alvydas Slepikas. Alvydas is one of the contemporary Lithuanian writers moving between the worlds of literature, theatre, film and television. His novel "Mano Vardas-Martye" in English titled as "In the Shadow of Wolves"-- a moving story about the so called 'wolf children'-- is one of the most read novel of recent time. According to the author, "In the shadow of Wolves" is based on the true stories told by surviving wolf children about their pain and hope.
Wolf children are German orphan children, who at the end of the Second World War cross the Nemunas River from East Prussia in order to survive and to work in Lithuania. Undine Radzeviciute is the author of five novels and a collection of short stories. Her novel "Fishes and Dragons" is a story about the clash of civilisations-of Chinese civilisation and the Christian world of the West.
It has been considered as one of the top 100 Lithuanian books published over the last century. Venclova is a Lithuanian poet, prose writer and literary critic and the best known representative of Lithuanian culture who taught Slavonic literature at Yale University. One of his best known books of selected poems "The Junction" has appeared in many languages. Joseph Broadsky said that Venclova's poetry 'is a form of resisting reality'.
Nora Ikstena, a prose writer from Latvia known for her elaborate style and detailed approach to language presents at LBF. She is the author of five novels. One of her famous books titled "Soviet Milk" is widely appreciated novel. Ikstena's trilogy -- "Celebration of Life" (1998), "The Virgin's Lesson" (2001) and "Mother's Milk" (2015) is well known to Latvian readers. The thread connecting this trilogy is the attempt by mothers and daughters to discover during different eras, a way to live without losing their voice.
LBF presents other Latvian authors's work such as Alberts Bels, Vizma belsevica, Andrejs Upits, Zigmunds Skujins, Imants Ziedonis, Inga Abele and Inguna Ula Cepite. Upits (1877-1970) appeared to me wrote in a wide range of genres. His body of work includes 20 novels, 12 collections of short stories and many plays.
Mihkel Mutt is a prominent Estonian author. His books such as "The Caveman Chronicles" and the "Inner Immigrant" are widely appreciated prose work. His first work of fiction, a collection of short stories titled in English "Fabian's Pupil" was published in 1980. One of his stories open with the words 'I am an internal emigrant. I am a foreign body in this society�.I do not like the society�' This inner monologue reminds us about Chekhov.
Estonian literary magazine depicted Mutt as a wonderful narrator and especially good with characters and descriptions. Mutt personally considered his work resemble to Aldous Huxley. One of the Mutt's recent works titled, "The Estonian Circumciser" published in 2016 observes globalization from the perspectives of ageing Europe and a relatively young small country. Migration in all its forms lies at the core of the 'The Estonian Circumciser'. Irony and seriousness are two dominant ingredients of Mutt's literary style.
One of the famous literary giant in Estonia was Jaan Kross (1920-2007). One of his famous novels titled "Rakvere Romaan" earned him much fame around the world. His work has been translated into more than twenty languages. He has won numerous prizes and has been a nominee of the Nobel Prize in Literature several times. LBF presents some other Estonian writers literary works such as Jaan Kaplinski, Mari Saat, Maimu Berg, Tiit Aleksejev, Kai aareleid, Leelo Tungal, Urmas Vadi, Andrei Hvostov, Ilmar Taska, Tonu Onnepalu, Viivi Luik and Rein Raud.
Literature represents consciousness of a nation. Same as true for Baltic countries. Lithuanian author Venclova in his book "Magnetic North" wrote "Perhaps there is a transcendental element of human nature that compels us to strive for truth. In the final account, the efforts of Big Brother-however successful they might seem, appear unable to extinguish the instinct for freedom�..still something I would like to stress is the immense role played by literature in this process. All literature of quality provides the reader with patterns and insights that enable him or her-perhaps not systematically, but frequently enough- to resist false doctrines. Poetry, in particular, is somewhat mysteriously linked to ethics; and poetic discipline to the fortitude of the spirit." No Lithuanian, Latvian or Estonians have been awarded Nobel Prize in literature yet but their historical and philosophical prose is powerful.
Many countries around the world have participated in the LBF. If I think about only SAARC region, then India with 34 stalls (this includes European publishers based in India) and Pakistan with 2 stalls participated in the London Book Fair 2018. Bangladesh remains absent this year as well. This is a place for cross cultural exchange which we all should explore.
The author is an author and columnist based in UK