29 July 2012
Returning to some of the history behind the book: Nina's great-great-grandparents (and her great-grandparents as well for that matter) were serfs, serfdom in Latvia having been introduced by the so-called Baltic Germans, who owned and ran the large estates and had a symbiotic understanding with the ruling Russians. In the seventeenth century, power in the Baltic area moved from Russia to Sweden - as the result of a series of battles - and Sweden, having no history of feudalism, immediately abolished the practice and introduced the peasants to education and a much better way of life. A century later, the tables turned and, with Russia once more in charge, the Baltic Germans resumed what they must have felt was a cheap and easy way of running their estates. Fortunately, by the mid-nineteenth century, with people becoming more aware of rights and liberties, serfdom was finally put to rest, but, even after the obligation was removed, Nina's great-grandparents and grandparents and even parents continued to work on the estates. While the industrial revolution gained in strength, attracting many estate workers into very different areas of work, there were still people - Nina's relatives included - who preferred to remain with what they already knew.
25 July 2012
24 July 2012
Returning to my last post and the question of when a manuscript can be said to be ready, I think I would have to say that it is never really ready. It is the same as with a painting. Should I have another line, another blob of colour? Right up until submission, I was still adding words, removing sentences, changing paragraphs. Once it was submitted, it was out of my hands - just like the painting on its way to an exhibition - now it was on its own.
21 July 2012
There is possibly an author, somewhere out there, who does not need to revise or edit, and his/her first attempt is what will eventually appear between the covers of his/her book. I'm afraid that I am not such a person. The manuscript was written and then rewritten; large swathes were removed or moved; words were added and deleted; the manuscript was rewritten yet again; more sections were deleted; more sections were added; another rewrite and then editing and editing and editing; punctuation was added and removed; paragraphs were combined, created and split; then more editing and editing and editing... At times, hours were spent deliberating over one page, one paragraph, one sentence or even over one single word. By the time the manuscript was finished (at what point can a manuscript actually be called finished?) I would have gone through it - word by word - anything up to one hundred times (which is a lot, considering that there are now about 114,000 words - down from around 124,000 words). At this point in time, I feel that I could most probably recite the entire book, cover to cover - a realization that brings to mind the book Fahrenheit 451.
18 July 2012
As I may have noted in an earlier post, the book covers most of last century and stretches itself across four countries. It begins just after the first Russian revolution and continues on though World War I, the Russian Revolution and World War II. Latvia is not a very big country, only 64,589 km², and the fact that all the above-mentioned conflicts spread themselves on to Latvian soil is a sobering thought. Of course, Latvia was not alone in this respect, but this story is about a Latvian woman and, therefore, focusses mainly on Latvia's situation.
15 July 2012
Mothers-in-law, like stepmothers, often have a bad reputation, but I was very fortunate. Right from when we first met, I always felt that Nina accepted me completely, and, if she ever had to take anyone's part, she would always take mine, even if it meant disagreeing with her son. Perhaps, given this relationship, it was only natural that I eventually decided to collect together her story, knowing that, if I did not, it would disappear for ever. Already, most of those connected with her story have passed on; soon there will be none left, and in another generation, even the memories will have faded or will have mutated beyond recognition. Everyone leaves a story behind, and some stories are more dramatic than others; Nina's story is one of these.
11 July 2012
We are all acquainted with change in some form or another. People who, for whatever reason, move from one country to another must juggle many changes while attempting, as far as is possible, to retain some small vestige of their former selves and their place of birth. Change, in this respect, should not be a process of complete assimilation but a process of addition. Some people - those on the outside looking in - do not always understand this idea of retaining what has gone before. I think that this lack of understanding is often caused by a fear of having to confront ideas and realities outside what they know and are prepared to accept. In other words, change, in this instance, affects not only those forced to uproot themselves but also those who then must receive them, willingly or otherwise.
07 July 2012
Don't panic! You are on the right blog. It is just that I like moving things around. The previous background was based on a painting of mine from a series entitled 'Seeking Asylum'. Although that particular painting is no longer on my website, there are still other paintings there. But I was not intending to talk about the painting, I was thinking more of the need for change. Change (in everything) is important if we are to retain - or should I say develop - some flexibility of perception. Change, on many levels, was an important part of Nina's life.
04 July 2012
01 July 2012
My intention with this blog is not to give away too much of the actual story but to touch on a few anecdotes that might fill in some of the spaces and, also, to answer any questions anyone may have. The historical background, as you may be able to imagine, was something of a minefield; however I launched myself into it, keeping in mind Nina's own observation that it is never particular countries or nationalities that are at fault, it is always a handful of individuals from within those countries or nationalities. In other words, there is really no difference between countries - most people are decent - but there are always individuals who stand to gain something by creating apparent or virtual differences.