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Māra Zālīte | Latvia

Born in 1952 in Krasnoyarsk in Siberia, where her family was deported in 1941 by the Soviet regime. In 1956, when she was four, she returned to Latvia with her family.  In 1975 she graduated from the Faculty of Philology of the University of Latvia. M. Zālīte has worked at the Writers’ Union of Latvia, where she ran Young Writers’ Studio. In 1989, she became the editor-in-chief- of the literary magazine “Kargos”. In 2000, she became the president of Latvian Authors’ Association (AKKA/LAA).

In the years 1977-1990, Zālīte reviewed poetry for the magazine “Liesma”. She is also a trust member of the National Library Board,  a member of The Copyright Advisory Board of the Ministry of Culture, a honorary member of the Academy of Sciences. In the years 2002-2004 she chaired the National Board of Language. She’s a Latvian poet, playwright, essayist, political and cultural commentator who engages in significant social and cultural projects as well as public activity.

In the 1970s, the basic themes of Māra Zālīte’s poetry were the problems of young people, reflection of the tendencies of nihilism and alienation, and the quest for the meaning of life.

In the 1980s her poetry became more philosophical, and the style more minimal, precise and incorporating folklore. Aside from poetry, she has also written many plays, combining current and eternal themes, history and contemporaneity and often also cultural symbolism. Some of her plays found audiences abroad: Margarēta was staged in Lithuania, while Zemes nodoklis was performed in Germany, Slovenia, Estonia and Lithuania, it was also translated into English, Russian and Ukrainian. She also wrote librettos for rock operas and operas for children. The rock-opera Lāčplēsis referring to the Latvian national epic based on legends and folk beliefs by the Latvian poet Andrejs Pumpurs – performed in 1988 was significant. It was not only a groundbreaking event in popular music, but also a political event. The theme of Latvian history and mythology reflected in this rock opera had a deep meaning for the audience at a time when the USSR was falling apart and Latvia saw a hope for liberation from the Soviet occupation. The stage adaptations of her works are among the most anticipated and significant  events in Latvian culture, because many of her works have gained symbolic significance in contemporary national mythology. Zālīte has won many literary prizes, including the prestigious J.G Herder Prize (1993), awarded by Topefer Foundation in Germany. In 1955 she received one of the most important national distinctions – the Three Star Order for taking part in protests in 1991. In 2019, her book Paradīzes putni  received a Latvian literary prize. Her work has been translated into German, Russian, English, Estonian, Lithuanian, Swedish.

a stylised, black and white portrait of the writer