On June 16, a conference dedicated to the Irish writer James Joyce and his work Ulysses was held in honor of Bloomsday. The conference discussed a new “Ulysses” translation into Latvian, which, as revealed at the conference, is being undertaken by translator and publicist Ieva Lešinska-Geibere.
University of Latvia professor Ojārs Lāms, prose writer Alberts Bels, as well as others, attended the conference alongside the Irish ambassador to Latvia, Jim Hennessy.
A new tradition – a walk in the streets of Riga, with short readings of fragments of the novel at locations analogous to those mentioned in Ulysses – was established, led by writer and journalist Mike Collier, who is also edotir of LSM English (but didn't write this).
The conference held lectures and a discussion on the importance and impact of Ulysses on Latvian language and literature, the history of translations to date, as well as the possibility of a new translation.
The writing of the Irish author James Joyce was presented by Prof. Ojārs Lāms, while prose writer Alberts Bels shared his personal experience and first contact with the novel, even in the Soviet times. The Latvian translation history of Ulysses was presented by the literary editor Arturs Hansons. Finally, there was a panel discussion about a possible new translation of the novel Ulysses, held by University of Latvia professor, translator, interpreter Andrejs Veisbergs, poet, writer Krista Anna Belševica, and University of Latvia lecturer, translator Lauma Terēze Lapa.
The project's author, SAeima deputy Atis Lejins, who works as part of the Latvian and Irish inter-parliamentary group, stressed that Joyce's novel “Ulysses” has had a great impression in Latvian literature and culture: "In Latvia, the novel was banned in the Soviet years. The Latvian translation came out in Sweden in 1960. Of course, this book was also gradually injected into Latvia, and the copies were passed hand-to-hand with an almost impossible task to read it overnight so that they could be brought to the next person."
“June 16 in Dublin is unthinkable without James Joyce's fans going to the streets, chatting in the gowns of King Edward VII and playing scenes from this world-famous novel. This year, given the spread of COVID-19, there is no celebration in Ireland at its usual pace. In Latvia, on the other hand, thanks to the initiative of the respected Atis Lejins, as well as the ability of the Latvian government to effectively limit the spread of the virus, today we had the opportunity to meet in person to establish a new tradition in the Baltic States – to mark Bloomsday in full bloom,” says the Irish ambassador to Latvia, Jim Hennessy.
Bloomsday has been after Ulysses protagonist Leopold Bloom, and since 1954, carnivals and dressing in period costumes have been organised in Ireland, with thousands of people participating. This year, the tradition was established in Riga – and the conference saw hopes expressed that next year fellow Baltic states Estonia and Lithuania could also get involved with the Rīga event.
It is hoped the new translation might be ready for the centenary of the first publication of "Ulysses" in 2022.