Rūdolfs Blaumanis

(1863–1908)

Rūdolfs Blaumanis – one of the brightest Latvian writers of the end of the 19th and start of the 20th centuries – was loved and respected during his lifetime and still is.
His poetry is being read out both by schoolchildren and enjoyed by adults. His play, “Skroderdienas Silmačos” (The Tailor Days in Silmači), is known by heart by many readers, which they oftentimes speak alongside the actors in the annual performances at the Latvian National Theatre. In Blaumanis plays, directors continue finding new aphorisms and possibilities for their spectacles. His novels, stories and their film adaptations continue to move hearts and minds for generations. A unofficial national writer.

Who was this person who left such a memory of his works and life? In his just 45 year long lifetime he was known for his fairness and clearness in his works, actions and attitude towards his friends. He was an example for his openness, frankness and straightforwardness. “The dearest a person is, the harsher must be ones view towards their faults,” writes Blaumanis and continues: “I lie rarely, but to my friends – never.” He was sickly during his lifetime, but rarely complained about his ailments, always tried to manfully overcome harder moments with work.
He tried to teach his proteges to fill their youth and latter years with work, learning and self-development. Every one of his works he re-read and edited multiple times, he asked the same thoroughness from the young authors.

He was equally attentive towards his dress. “He loved his tailcoat like a bride, and almost every week took it to a known tailor to be ironed,” remembers the theater historian and critic, National Theater director Artūrs Bērziņš. He always prepared his appearance diligently when reading his works in front of an audience and hated when somebody would walk around in an unkempt manner. He also did not look kindly upon those who would indulge in drink, because he saw the human organism as frail and sensitive, and especially in need of protection for artists because of their talent.

Having been ill for most of his life, having experience his mother’s illness, he very well understood those who were suffering from some ailment. In 1904, when meeting sick Jānis Akuraters, he gave him his warm clothing and took him to his country house in “Braki” where he treats him with all the goods of the countryside, until he gets better. When Jānis Akuraters latter gets arrested for participating in the revolutionary events of 1905, Blaumanis is not afraid to visit him in jail and help him materially.

The writer took heavily the events of 1905, the violence of the punishing expeditions. Kindness was one of his main attributes.
Outwardly being delicate, temperate, almost phlegmatic, Blaumanis could also be joyful, cosy, witty and only a few witnessed him downhearted or even tragic, when he felt for the fates of his literary characters, ailments of close ones or material hardships that plagued him throughout his life. Despite this, he had a dream of building a house in Ērgļi where poor writers and artists could live.
Love of Mankind was not just a phrase for Blaumanis, he always exemplified it in his work: “How can I love humanity, which I have not seen, if I cannot love the man, who might be suffering next to me.” said the writer. “Help a man, and you will have served mankind.” Blaumanis was always a giver, whether of good, useful advice, practical objects or money.
The money he loaned to others he would often take from some better off acquaintances…

“Blaumanis friendship was not an easy delight or a compliment. You could feel it as a fertility raining over you,” said the Latvian painter and writer Jānis Jaunsudrabiņš. Friendship is something Blaumanis seeks throughout his life. He was not able to find a wife or create a family, but friends he had many, “I become as if ill, if I do not have close friends next to me.” He was sometimes forced to endure inconstancy of friendships, maliciousness, loneliness, but never did Blaumanis want to take his revenge – better then to forget altogether, cut off ties. Blaumanis was always searching for an ideal amongst people, someone, who would help him improve, increase his faith in the good in man, that’s why sometimes he was also forced to be disappointed. He writes: “As my own soul aims to be better and better itself, so do I wish that others, especially the ones close to me, better themselves. I have a strange inclination: I am searching for an ideal among living people.” In his friendship, Blaumanis is candid and open, as he says himself, “real”. As real as he said he would be, if he was not a journalist or a writer: “A farmer, full of strength and intelligence, but not educated.”

Loving of nature, close to Earth, such he was in his dear “Braki”, which he took care of with love as well as he could. It was there that he found writing the easiest and also wanted to pass away. It was here that Blaumanis received and housed his visitors, learned how to manage a household after his father’s death. He had moments when he wanted to leave it all, but did not, too strong was his love for this place. Too much strength had he received from it.

The beauty of nature around “Braki” gave foundation to his literary work, helped him nurture it. And whenever it got too harsh or hard in the city, this was the place where he could regain his strength, get clarity about himself and his environment. Life did not spoil Blaumanis with illnesses, poverty, losing faith in people, but the writer was never lacking in mirth and wittiness: “My stories are serious, in part very glum. But there is also a light side in me, which also asks for its rights, the chance to express itself.”
This brightness we can find in his plays and poetry, read in his letters, his friends memories of him.

Līga Kļaviņa

 The Janis Rozentāls and Rūdolfs Blaumanis Museum

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