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Leon Briedis | Latvia

(b. 1949 in the region of Madona, d. 1 February 2020 in Riga) – poet, writer, essayist, literary critic, translator of poetry and prose, publisher.  He graduated  from the Department of Latvian Language and Literature at Latvian State University in 1968, where he continued his research until 1970 when he was expelled for anti-Soviet activity, losing the right to get an academic degree at  any university within the USSR. Despite this, in 1972 he entered the Department of Spanish Language and Literature at the University of Chişinău in the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic, which he was also forced to leave due to his contacts with Moldovan and Romanian democratically minded intellectuals. He took part in the Higher Literary Courses at  Maxim Gorky Literature Institute in Moscow, where he studied translation theory and African studies. Briedis translated poetry and prose from Latin, Russian, Polish, English, Romanian, Albanian, Suahili and Romance languages (Spanish, French, Portuguese, Italian, Catalan, Rhaeto-Romanic). Aside from  writing a dozen of his own poetry and prose, he also compiled an impressively extensive anthology of 20th century Spanish poetry and penned many essays, articles, film screenplays, librettos as well as translated stage plays performed in Latvia. He wrote lyrics to nearly 150 songs.  He published twenty eight books featuring his own work and translated over 40 works.  Despite the repressions of Soviet authorities he persisted in promoting international literary contacts.
He was a member of the Latvian Writers’ Union,  PEN Club,  as well as an honorary member of Latvian Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Philosophy and Sociology. Throughout his career, he was active in various cultural institutions in Latvia. He was the editor-in-chief and publisher of the academic magazine “Kentaurs XXI” that he set up and ran in 1992-2010. He was also the director of the publishing house Minerva. Briedis won many literary awards, both in Latvia and abroad – the Romanian Writers’ Association gave him an award for promoting Romanoan culture in Latvia. In 1999, he received the Order of the Three Stars and in 2010 he received the Ojars Vacietis Literary Award for the collection of poems Mijkrēšļa rokraksts. In 2015, he received the annual Latvian literary award for lifetime achievement and in 2016 his  collection of children’s poetry  Saputrotāputra was nominated for the prestigious Latvian literary prize, The Jānis Baltvilks award. He died on 1 February 2020 during editorial work on the anthology.

a stylised, black and white portrait of the author