Poet, writer Vizma Belševica dies at age 74

Vizma Belševica, one of Latvia’s most admired contemporary poets and writers, died Aug. 6 after a long illness, according to the Latvian news service LETA and President Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga’s press office.

She was 74 and was born in Rīga in 1931.

In recent years, perhaps her best-known work was the “Bille” trilogy, autobiographical novels that told the story of a young Latvian girl’s coming of age from the 1930s into the 1950s. The first, Bille, was published in 1995, followed by Bille dzīvo tālāk in 1996 and Billes skaistā jaunība in 1999.

Belševica studied at the Gorky Institute in Moscow. Her first collection of poetry, Visu ziemu šogad pavasaris, was published in 1955. But in 1968, she ran afoul of Soviet authorities because of a nationalistic poem and for many years could no longer get her own work before the public.

One of her two sons, the poet Klāvs Elsbergs, died in 1987 after falling—or being pushed—out of a ninth-story window of the writers’ union building in Dubulti. Belševica’s other son, Jānis Elsbergs, also is a poet. Until 1999 he published under the pen-name Jānis Ramba, according to the Latvian Literature Centre.

In 1990, Belševica was named an honorary member of the Latvian Academy of Sciences. Five years ago, she was nominated for the Nobel Prize in literature, LETA said.

Andris Straumanis is a special correspondent for and a co-founder of Latvians Online. From 2000–2012 he was editor of the website.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *