HCA NEWS Latvian author appointed Hans Christian Andersen Ambassador

The Latvian author Nora Ikstena was today appointed Hans Christian Andersen Ambassador in relation to the 2005 Hans Christian Andersen bicentenary.

By Mikkel Stjernberg - H.C. Andersen 2005 - 25 May 2004

She is 34 years of age but already a national literary icon in Latvia. As from today, she is also an official Hans Christian Andersen Ambassador.

The ceremony took place at the Royal Danish Embassy in Riga, presided over by Danish Ambassador to Latvia, Arnold Skibsted, who presented Nora Ikstena with the official 24-carat red and white gold Hans Christian Andersen Ambassador needle and the official Hans Christian Andersen dinner service, designed by Lin Utzon.

"In her fiction Ikstena has consistently sought to preserve Latvia's reservoir of poetic values while reformulating her reader's ideas of reality. Her insight in human and social relations as well as her combination of cosmopolitan attitude and patriotism - in short her affinity with Hans Christian Andersen - makes Nora Ikstena worthy of being appointed Hans Christian Andersen Ambassador of Latvia," says Ambassador Arnold Skibsted.

Faded flowers can dance
In her acceptance speech, Nora Ikstena emphasised the paradoxes in Andersen's fairytales and the country she is set to represent in relation to the Andersen bicentenary next year.

Drawing on Andersen's fairytale 'Little Ida's Flowers,' which Nora Ikstena has a predilection for, she related her firsthand experience on how 'faded flowers can dance', just as in the fairytale. Naturally, she was referring to the changes that have taken place in Latvia since the fall of the wall.

"Part of the aim of the Andersen bicentenary is to unite people across the planet in a brotherhood of thought and fantasy against religious and national conflicts, territorial and economic interests and wars for global influence. Latvia too has been invited to join this brotherhood. I am deeply honoured and thank Denmark sincerely for appointing me as Andersen's Ambassador in Latvia. This is the first diplomatic post I have been given in my life and I accept it joyfully, because I do not need to be ashamed of Andersen's politics," Nora Ikstena said.

Published in many languages
Nora Ikstena is an authoress of novels, short stories and specialist literature as well as featuring as a columnist in the Latvian daily Diena.

She received the Latvian Ministry of Culture Annual Literary Award in 1998 for her major contribution to Latvian literature. In 2001, she was nominated for the Baltic Council Literary Award.

In 1995-97, Nora Ikstena was the editor of a special edition of Review of Contemporary Fiction (Illinois, USA), featuring Latvian fiction. Her stories have been published in Finnish, German, Russian, Slovenian, French, Swedish and English.

Nora Ikstena holds a BA in literature and Latvian language from the Univeristy of Latvia. Her first book from 1992 ('The Homecoming') is a biography of a Latvian diplomat and author. Shortly after, Nora Ikstena started to write fiction.

Her first collection of short stories was an instant bestseller, and great critical acclaim in Latvia was to follow. Nora Ikstena portrays people of very diverse social backgrounds and is especially adept in challenging her characters with complex and quite surprising psychological dilemmas.

Photo: Portrait of Nora Ikstena. Shot by photographer Ilmars Znotins.