Aspazija in Switzerland (1912)
16 March 1865|
Zaļenieku parish, Russian Empire
|Died||5 November 1943
Jūrmala, Ostland (Now Latvia)
Aspazija was born and raised in wealthy peasant family near Jelgava in 1865, where she studied and was active in youth organizations. She didn't graduate gymnasium but left in last year and in 1886 married with Wilhelm Max Valter. In later years she became interested in literature mainly- german authors. Her first publication was made in 1887 in the newspaper Dienas Lapa. In 1891 she divorced from her husband and until 1893 worked as a private teacher in Jaunsvirlauka. In 1893 she settled in Riga and started to work as journalist. In 1894 her first plays Vaidelote and Zaudētās tiesības was staged in Riga.
In that time she met Jānis Pliekšāns (better known as Rainis), a newspaper editor, poet, and lawyer and one of the leaders of New Current (Jaunā strāva) movement. Under his influence also Aspazija actively participated in New Current (Jaunā strāva) activities. The couple married in 1897 when after the crackdown of movement they for a short while lived in Panevėžys, Lithuania. In this year her first collection of poetry was published. For his activities Rainis was imprisoned and later sentenced to five years in exile in Russia from 1897–1903 and Aspazija followed him. Together they translated into latvian many works of J.W. Goethe. Later they returned to Latvia and wrote, while Rainis also participated in socialist politics.
The 1905 Revolution began with protests in St. Petersburg in January. Within days protests spread to Riga and many were killed on January 13, 1905. Aspazijas play "Vaidelote" (The Vestal) opened in January and was interpreted to be a call to break free of Imperialist Russia. (Rainis also published a collection of opens published, Vētras Sēja (The Sowing of the Storm) which were poems of the Revolution.) The czar directed a crack-down and many revolutionaries were arrested and killed in 1905-6. Therefore, Rainis and Aspazija traveled to Switzerland and lived in exile in Castagnola from 1905–1920.
When they returned to independent Latvia after World War I, she was active in the feminist movement. Aspazija also joined the Latvian Social Democratic Workers' Party and was elected in a constitutional assembly. After Rainis death in 1929 Aspazija lived very privately in Riga or in her summer house in Dubulti. She died in November 5, 1943 in Dubulti and was buried in Rainis cemetery, Riga, next to her husband.
Aspazija's first works are realistic, but most of her work is neo-romantic. Some are a nostalgic look to the past. For example, the play Vaidelote (a female servant to gods in Lithuanian mythology), written in 1894, takes place in the 14th century Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The plays Simple Rights and Unattained Goals provoked many discussions because of their protest against the patriarchal society. The play Silver Veil (Sidraba šķidrauts) is considered to be her best work. In 1923 she wrote a play titled Aspazija.
In the poetry compilation Red Flowers, simple and ordinary things are viewed in a romantic light. At the same time, her poems are full of light, fantasy, and rebellious moods. In Soul's Twilight (1904), pessimistic moods take over.
While living abroad, Aspazija wrote the poetry compilations Sunny Corner and Spread Wings, which have fewer social aspects and more intimate text, less rebellion against society, and more personal feelings.
- Stahnke, Astrida B. Aspazija: her life and her drama. Lanham, MD.: Univ. Press of America, 1984. ISBN 0-8191-3681-6 ; ISBN 0-8191-3682-4.
- Meskova, Sandra (2003). Two mothers of Latvian literature : Aspazija and Anna Brigadere. Journal of Baltic studies. 34.3, 276-297.
- Nesaule, Agate (1992). What happened to Aspazija? In search of feminism in Latvia. Hecate. 18.2, 112-125. ISSN 0311-4198 ;
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