Few Latvian Literary Works Make It to Estonian Readers

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A Riga bookstore Source: Photo: ERR

Estonian bookstores often have a fair share of translated works by Nordic authors, but rarely can one find translated Latvian literature.

It's not that Latvia doesn't have good writing, sources told ERR radio; there is just a lack of Latvian-to-Estonian translators.

There is much more Estonian literature translated into Latvian, ranging from classics such as Jaan Kross and Jaan Kaplinski to younger generation Andrus Kivirähk and Contra.

Latvian translators and publishers gladly pick up Estonian literature, says Latvian poet and translator Guntars Godins. Unfortunately, it does not work the other way around.

"The last book that was released was Aleksandrs Čaks's poetry anthology, which was translated by Livia Viitol. But the situation is very bad because there are not many active translators like in Latvia," Godins said.

Hannes Korjus is one of Estonia's few Latvian literature translators. He said Estonian publishers are often skeptical of Latvian works.

"In the current publishing environment, it is a bit difficult for Latvian literature to assert itself, because there are more and more good or average books coming in. People don't want to read just Latvian literature, but also Lithuanian, Russian literature, and so on. In that sense its tough to compete. Publishers are often not willing to take risks," Korjus said.

The publisher to put out the most Latvian translations, meaning one every few years, is Loomingu Raamatukogu. The executive editor, Triinu Tamm, said the Latvian literature drought results from a lack of translators.

"Nor is there very much reader interest, unfortunately. Works from farther away may seem more exciting than those of our neighbors. [Our company] can afford it because we have state support. The books we have released or are releasing are in my opinion unparalleled books that indisputably enrich the literature scene," Tamm said.

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