The Sense of Place in Latvian and American Latvian Literature

Aija Poikāne-Daumke (University College of Economics and Culture, Riga)

This paper examines both the sense of place and the meaning of landscapes in Edvarts Virza’s text Straumēni (1934), Edmunds Valdemārs Bunkšes autobiography Geography and the Art of Life (2004) and Andra Kins’s Coming and Going: A Family Quest (2005). Through close readings of these texts, I will demonstrate that Latvians in exile – Bunkše and Kins – attempt to reconstruct their lost homeland, using their imagination and knowledge about Latvia. “Their” Latvia resembles Virza’s Latvia, where Latvians, depicted as God-fearing, hard-working, and “pure” people, live in harmony with nature. The old farmstead “Straumēni” becomes a symbol of Latvian national identity glorifying pastoral life. Bunkše expresses a similar point of view. He recalls his grandparents’ farmstead – sounds and smells surrounding the homestead. The fragrance of freshly baked rye bread symbolizes not only his lost identity but also his longing for Latvia. When he returns to Latvia in the 1990s, he sees that the familiar and dear to him landscapes and his grandparents’ homestead have been destroyed by the Soviet regime. Andra Kins, in her turn, grows up with the stories about Latvia told to her by her grandmother and mother. When she goes to Latvia to visit her relatives, she realizes that Latvia is an unfamiliar place to her.

Keyword: Poikane

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