Nora Ikstena

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Writer Nora Ikstena was born in 1969 in Riga. After obtaining a degree in Philology from the University of Latvia in 1992, she took some courses in English literature at Columbia University. Early in her career as a writer, she gained extensive experience in editing. In 1998, she was guest editor of “The Review of Contemporary Fiction” issue dedicated to Latvian fiction. Nora Ikstena’s debut in literature was a biography of prewar writer and politician Anna Rūmane-Ķeniņa, followed by two collections of short stories. Nora Ikstena is the author of two novels – Dzīves svinēšana (Celebrating Life, 1998) and Jaunavas mācība (The Virgin’s Lesson, 2001, awarded with the Latvian Annual Prize for Literature). An excerpt from the latter was published in English in the Canadian literary journal Descant (No 124, spring 2004); a Lithuanian translation of the novel appeared in Vilnius in 2005 and in Tallin – in 2011. Celebrating Life has been published in Denmark (2001), Estonia (2003) and Sweden (2008). Dzīvesstāsti (Life Stories), another collection of short fiction, came out in 2004, marking a departure from her previous ornate style of writing. Amariļļi (Amaryllises), one of the best stories in the collection, has been translated into English (Edinburgh Review No 115, 2006) and Czech (One Woman Press, 2006). In 2006, in co-operation with poet Imants Ziedonis, she published a biographical work of fiction Nenoteiktā bija (The Indefinite Was), an attempt at reconstructing his childhood memories. A non-traditional biography – for it stands on an ever uncertain border of being an autobiography. Due to serious illness, the popular Latvian poet can no longer write and has difficulty speaking, but his ability to think has not been affected, and at this point Ziedonis wishes to tell why he has become a poet – to talk about his roots, his childhood, about the mystery which holds the key to his works. He called the writer Nora Ikstena to his aid – to record his… thoughts. Most fantastically, Nora has coped with this impossible mission – as if incarnating into a living poet and writing his reminiscences. This is the most emotional biography you will find. For The Indefinite Was Ikstena received the most prestigious literary award of the Baltic states – the Baltic Assembly Prize, the Latvian Annual Prize for Literature, and the Annual Prize for Culture of daily newspaper Diena. Nora Ikstena is an author of two books of essays, A Jay in the Mirror Glass (2006) and Chocolate Jesus (2009). Ikstena’s novel Amour Fou or Erroneous Love in 69 Verses was published in 2009 and later turned into a play. In 2010, the Latvian theatre director Dž. Dž. Džilindžers staged a production of Amor Fou at the Daile Theatre in Riga. The novel was also published in the Russian language (2010). In collaboration with her husband, the Georgian-German writer Levan Beridze Ikstena wrote the play Filiparia, which was published in both Latvian and Russian. Her latest novel is The Man in a Blue Raincoat (2011), a story about the famed Latvian writer and translator Dzintars Sodums. Ikstena’s short story Elza Kuga’s Old Age Dementia (translated into English by Margita Gailītis) was included in the prose anthology Best European Fiction 2011.
The author is an active participant in Latvia’s cultural and political life. Together with writer Pauls Bankovskis and translator Maima Grīnberga, she launched the immensely popular Prose Readings that are held every December. A founding member of the Latvian Literature Centre, she is also a frequent participant in international events, performing at readings and giving papers at conferences.

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