Edvarts Virza (originally: Jēkabs Eduards Liekna, 1883–1940) was born in Rāceņi in Emburga (present-day Salgale) parish. He was one of nine children of a farming couple – Anna and Juris. He attended the Salgale and Bauska Schools, studied law and economics in Moscow. During the 1905 Revolution, he taught himself French, so that later he and his wife, poet Elza Stērste, could popularise French poetry in Latvia. He befriended other Latvian poets, worked to find his own poetic voice, and in 1906 published his first cycle of poems in the journal “Dzelme”. He was mobilised during the First World War, was a rifleman in Jukums Vācietis’s regiment, wrote poetry about his fellow soldiers. Prior to independence he promoted the idea of an independent Latvia. He worked in the press, was the director of the Daile Theatre, worked at the Ministry of Education. Between 1940 and 1985, his works were effectively illegal.
Edvarts Virza’s poetry collection “Biķeris” (Cup; 1907) is especially noteworthy among Latvian works of that time, as it is the first book of erotic poetry in the history of Latvian literature. The collection received a harsh response from Virza’s contemporaries, primarily due to its themes. It describes lust and sensuality in language so explicit that it shocked the society of the time.
For his service to Latvia and Latvian culture, the author received many awards including ones given to him by Kārlis Ulmanis, the head of the authoritarian regime, which controlled Latvia between 1934 and 1940.
About Straumēni // Latvijas Sabiedriskie Mediji, 2018 [LV]Reviews
Anita Bormane, Edvarts Virza, conversation with Anda Kubuliņa // LA.lv, 2013 [LV]
1938, The Fatherland Award
1937 and 1926, Order of the Three Stars
1937, The Culture Fund Award for New Roll-call
1936, The Culture Fund Award for Kārlis Ulmanis
1925, The Culture Fund Award for Poems
Guggolz Velag, Germany
At the heart of this work are the author’s childhood memories and the stories he heard from his grandparents about the idyllic life of Latvian peasants set in the 19th century.