The Baltic States

It is all too easy to concentrate on our own publishing world; it is so rich and has a long history. However, it is exciting and salutary – indeed imperative – to move beyond these shores to discover what other countries can offer. Next year the London Book Fair will feature the Baltic countries – Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia – as the market focus. What better than for us to look east as well in this issue of IBBYLink. They are all members of the IBBY family and engaged in the creation of books – imaginative, lively, interesting books.

Sadly many of us will have little acquaintance with these three countries, hidden for so many years behind the Iron Curtain. Perhaps we will have joined detective Kurt Wallander as he travels to Riga in pursuit of a case, or maybe we remember that one of the characters in Jonathan Franzen’s TheCorrectionstravelstoVilnius.Theseareborder countries in ourminds.

What preconceptions! Here we are introduced to three countries all with their own histories as well as shared experiences. Their publishing scenes are vibrant and active, looking both out and in as we quickly realise from our contributors. Estonia can offer an inspiring Children’s Literature Centre, a hub for books and activities, while Lithuania has Rubinaitis, a quarterly journal providing information on children’s literature to a wide audience, and Latvia has the Children and Young Adult Jury, successfully promoting children’s literature. Then there are the Bikibuks. These are miniature books all illustrated by well-established Latvian artists and featuring – poetry! Santa Remere describes the vision that has led to this innovative project.

History is always important and its exploration can turn a spotlight on corners that will come as a surprise. The collaboration between V. Geetha and Giedrė Jankevičiūtė to uncover a little known aspect in the publishing history of Lithuanian picture books is fascinating. Who could have imagined a connection between the Baltic and India? And through what agency? Surely this provides much food for thought and the possibility of identifying other such journeys.

Because books travel, and so do authors. Ruth Sepetys may live in the United States but she is Lithuanian – and this is a connection that is reflected in her novels, though she herself is an example of the diasporas that are such a feature of world history. And, here again, her interest, as she herself tells us, her responsibility in fact, is to tell the stories that are on the borders of history; hidden histories that have been lurking behind the Iron Curtain of received narrative.

Welcome to centre stage, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia – the Baltic countries.

Ferelith Hordon

llustration by Estonian artist Catherine Zarip. Text by Aino Pervik. Rändav Kassiemme [The Wandering Cat], Tallinn: Tammerraamat, 2012.

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