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Tales of Contemporary Latvian Migration: Original and Translation in an Intercultural Paradigm

Sun, June 3, 8:15 to 9:45am, History Corner (450 Serra Mall, Building 200), 015


With contemporary globalization, migration flows in search of a better life: the involvement of Latvia in European integration has produced a new type of Latvian diaspora. The dynamic processes of its formation and existence are reflected in Latvian literature, albeit not massively. The few novels published so far have elicited a vivid response among Latvian readers and belong to the set of texts that are actively promoted for translation and international distribution by publishers and cultural institutions of Latvia. Two novels are particularly salient – “The Mushroom Testament. The Black Balts among Celts” (2002), the debut novel by Laima Muktupāvela (now Kota), and “Stroika with a London View” (2010), the phenomenally successful debut novel by Vilis Lācītis (William B[loody] Foreignerski). Both novels focus on economical migrants to the UK. They share a similar environment, and are witty, humorous and satirical, but also have divergent traits, e.g. the gender of the narrators and their attitudes toward cultural differences and integration and opportunities for acculturation. The interplay between cultural stereotypes and prejudices, ethnic heterogeneity and disparate standards of living, take on an added importance: their difference and polarities are often conveyed by linguistic paradoxes, puns and other means that quite obviously presume Latvians as the target readership, posing the question as to what extent these tales of migratory experience, quite widely represented in Western intercultural literature, can transcend the limits of Latvian cultural heritage and the Latvian language and reach out to a broader readership. The paper discusses these two Latvian migrant novels in terms of translatability.

Short Bio

Ojārs Lāms, literary scholar and classicist, Ph.D., professor of comparative literature at the University of Latvia, head of the department of Latvian and Baltic studies. He has translated several modern Greek poets as well has translated and edited “On sublime” by Longinus, edited “Poetics” by Aristotle. He is the author of monographs and numerous publications on the history and theory of the epic and perception of the culture of antiquity, and has researched intercultural literature. His papers have been published in Latvian, English, German and Finnish, both in Latvia and abroad.

Dens Dimiņš, literary translator and linguist, Mag.philol. in Classics and translatology (2002), Ph.D. student in general linguistics at the University of Iceland (from 2012), has taught languages and literature at the University of Latvia and the Academy of Culture of Latvia. He has translated numerous novels from French, Icelandic, Bulgarian, Italian, German and Modern Greek into Latvian, as well as edited and commented the translation of “The Elder Edda” into Latvian. He is the author of numerous articles on translation, literature and linguistics in English, Latvian, Russian and Modern Greek.