(by the author of the initiative – Mr. Atis Lejiņš)
This year, on June 16, despite the pandemic, Latvia held its first Bloomsday event. Restrictions imposed by the government were fully observed thanks to the generosity of the Latvian University which made available an auditorium designed for 250 people. This accommodated easily almost 60 who had previously registered to attend.
This was followed by a promenade through Riga Old Town where passages from Ulysses were read along the way which ended at the “Paddy Whelan’s” pub where the Latvian Irish dance group “Ceili Rue” performed.
The main question of the event was should “Ulysses” be translated once again into Latvian. The first translation and publication of the book was in 1960 by Dzintars Sodums, a former Latvian soldier who had deserted from the German Army after it had occupied Latvia and who fled to Sweden before the Second World War ended. Emigrating to the United States it took him ten years to translate. It was subsequently smuggled into Soviet occupied Latvia causing a sensation in literary circles.
Alberts Bels, a prominent author, described how he ended up reading “Ulysses” in two days and his subsequent troubles with the KGB. One of his books, Insomnia, has been translated into English by Jayde Will, and published by “Parthian” this year.
An improved translation by D.Sodums when he returned to a free Latvia after 1991 was published in 2012.
Today a new generation of professional translators who are bilingual in English and Latvian has emerged. Mrs. Ieva Lešinska-Geibere read the first 20 pages of her translation which was enthusiastically acclaimed.
The opinion of the conference was that a new translation “Ulysses” would be a challenge both for the translator and for the Latvian language itself, since it would have to strictly follow less the original English but instead say what James would had said if he had written it in Latvian.
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