March 16th, 2015

diplomacy

What is the best-known book set in Latvia?

See note on methodology

Some of you who are fans of Scandinavian crime stories were miffed that Jo Nesbø failed to place in my Norway entry. You should have been satisfied with Stieg Larsson's triumph in Sweden. Swedish crime has a long arm, and the best-known book set in Latvia, by a very long margin, is the second in one of the classic Scandinavian police procedural series, in which our hero is sent across the Baltic to solve crime and generally have a lousy time. Published in 1992, it is:

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The top book entirely set in Latvia on GoodReads is by a Latvian writer, and tells of being a teenager in Jelgava, which is about 50 km from Riga, in the 1990s, concerts, coffee shop conversations, and betrayals. It does not appear to have been translated into English. Published in 2013, and winner of the European Union Prize for Literature, it is:

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Whereas Goodreads often has good outreach into particular literary traditions (including notably Arabic, though that hasn't figured in these posts), LibraryThing has strong representation from other traditions, and the top book by a Latvian writer on LibraryThing in a 1997 manual relating to one of those:

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A couple of other books that feature in the mix here: a Latvian-born Canadian historian's 1989 history of culture and violence at the start of the 20th century:

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And a controversial 2007 account by an Australian writer of what happened to his father in the first world war, controversial because it is presented as non-fiction but some have challenged the authenticity of the narrative (and judging from the title alone, it sounds pretty improbable):

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Bubbling under: Inga Ābele, Andrejs Pumpurs, Aleksandrs Grīns, Agate Nesaule.