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“Freedom, the meaning of life and faith –

my fiction is a reflection of these issues”

Latvian author Ilze Jansone’s fiction often focuses on narratives about human’s attitude towards religion, their religious crises, existential dilemmas, freedom, human’s place in the world and questions about the meaning of life, the fascination in all of which stems from her academic background, she says.


“The interest in these things, I think, is because I am also a theologian, and my academic interest was of how literature can become media through which humankind reflects on God, Jansone said, speaking ahead of her appearance at the 6th EU-China International Literary Festival.


“I think a lot and read about all the themes I do not understand – freedom, meaning of life, faith – and my fiction may be also a reflection on that issues,” added Jansone, who has a doctoral degree in theology and has worked at the University of Latvia as a senior researcher.


The abstract concept of freedom is something she is particularly drawn to in her work, primarily because it is a concept she finds she herself grapples with.


“I have to admit, that I do not know what freedom is. Otherwise, I would not write about it. Sometimes I think, it is impossible to achieve a real freedom,” she said.


“Of course, I know the political and sociological meaning of the term, but to my mind, the concept of freedom in a religious or philosophical sense is far more complex. Also in fiction – of course, a writer can write what he/she has in mind, but there are always subconscious layers of experience, stereotypes, which prevents the narrative from the freedom.”


She published long-story Behind the Glass (2006), collection of short stories Goodbye, Feminism (2013), and is an author of four novels – Insomnia (2010), The Only One (2015), Things of Men (2020) and Invoice of Time (2021).


She feels her way into each project before deciding if it will ultimately be a novel or a short story, she said.


“At first, there is always an idea – sometimes an idea takes the form of the sentence, sometimes it is just an indefinite thought. When I start working with it – writing and, of course, reading inspirational texts by others, I get to know would it be a novel or a short story,” she said.


“Of course, sometimes the idea takes form, for example, as a concept of the collection of the short stories, and then it is work step by step.”


But always as a writer the key motivation for her is language and the use of it to expand her horizons, she says.
“Definitely, the first motivation absolutely is language – not only as a tool of communication, but also as a mode of thinking, as an unlimited possibility to widen my own world. Secondly, other things come – such as social or theological issues etc.”


In 2020 her novel Things of Men was published and was extremely well reviewed by writers and readers alike. And again, the main theme is a “pretty absurd” search for freedom.


“The novel explores an ugly portrait of my generation – it tells about people who think they’re friends, who think they’re in love with anybody but themselves, who sleep or have slept mutually around, also, about (vain) searching for meaning of life,” she said.


“On the other hand, in Things of Men, there is also an animal part – short chapters about different animals (unicorn, fly, crab, grasshopper etc.) in which I tried to reflect on the issues people struggle with ironically.”


While the book title is Things of Men, Jansone uses it in an ironic fashion and says she ultimately sees no differential between those ‘things’ and the things of women.


“I would say that there is no difference. Traditionally and historically, “things of men” were always searching for meaning, playing mind games, defining things from the human perspective in the world,” she said.


“In real life, women also can and have always done that too, although their “thing” historically has been “KKK” – Kindern, Kirche, Kueche (children, church, cooking). I use this term ironically to show that people may think that they got all these important “men things”, but actually, in my novel, these “men things” are still nothing but a grasshopper looking for partner.”