Rainis. The Golden Horse

27/03/2013

Translated and Annotated by Vilis Inde, J. D.

inde/jacobs publishing, Marfa, Texas, 2012

Price (LVL): 12,00

The book is for sale in Rainis and Aspazija Cottage, Janis Rozentals and Rudolfs Blaumanis Museum, Krišjanis Barons Museum and Janis Akuraters Museum as well as in administration of Asociation of Memorial Museums.

One of the seminal pieces of Latvian literature, Rainis’ The Golden Horse is newly translated to English. The play, written in 1909, relates to Latvia’s fight for cultural autonomy at the beginning of the 20th century. Latvians had suffered defeat during the 1905 Revolution and World War One was just beyond the horizon. Rainis, like many other Latvians hoped to inspire a nation. The Golden Horse provided a path to achieve independence.

The Golden Horse is based upon a fairy tale. The youngest and meekest of three brothers, Antins climbs the mountain of blue glass and green ice, wakes the princess and saves the kingdom. The tale is full of symbolism relevant to the era that the audience fully understood. Rainis included lessons along with his words of inspiration. He called for Idealism – Altruism – Self-sacrifice – Unity!

The lessons were exceptionally important. This becomes apparent in the Afterword of the book. The Afterword includes the historic context for this important piece of Latvian literature and discusses Rainis’ exceptional role in the cultural and independence movement of Latvia.

As an example, Rainis and others had been the leaders of the socialist movement that called for workers’ right and freedom from exploitation. This movement was evident in Russia and throughout many parts of Russia. The Latvian socialists would soon split: Rainis would stress cultural autonomy, while others, who followed Lenin, believed that a global utopia could be achieved only by extinguishing ethnic distinctions. The latter believed in a Russian melting pot (Russification), while Rainis stressed the value of Latvian culture. But, The Golden Horse calls for “unity.” Ultimately, the political and cultural differences could be worked out after Latvia shed the oppression of Imperial Russia and the Baltic German land barons.

Thus, this new prose translation provides the reader with access to Latvian literature and the related cultural elements. But it also provides the historical context of the play and its continuing relevance for Latvians today.

The translation by Vilis Inde, a first generation Latvian, is readable. Although the play retains the tone of early twentieth century literature, it does not stumble in the way that many translations do that are prepared by Latvians with English as a second language.

Inde’s goal with the translation was to provide an interesting and important introduction to Latvia for friends and family who do not know Latvian. He stresses that this is an objective history – one very different from the one that he was taught in Sunday schools and summer camps. For example, Rainis was the father of Latvian socialism (and many socialists were communists that supported the Bolshevik Revolution). Inde hopes that his nephews and friends who read the work will have a greater understanding of the complexities of Latvian history and culture.

The book has been praised by Latvians in Latvia and abroad. It has been referred to as a fresh and readable translation for the contemporary reader.

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