“I wanted to become smart, rich and famous so badly. It was all the same thing – if someone is smart, he contributes to general welfare, for which the world rewards him with money, fame and fortune without question. Probably with pretty girls as well…”

The acclaimed and awarded novel Jelgava ‘94 is a literary debut from Latvian writer Jānis Joņevs (1980) published in 2013, which quickly achieved cult status among readers in the country. This is the first Latvian novel that portraits, in a realistic and convincing way, often with the author’s very refined sense of humor, what growing up was like in Latvia following the breakup of the Soviet Union.

The novel starts in 1994 in Latvian town Jelgava and follows over several years how the narrator and local teenagers mature while they are rebelling by “getting into” heavy metal. In defiance of their surroundings and a “uniformed” society, they persist on being different from others “on the other side.” But are defiance and a rebellious spirit just a temporary youthful fad or a state of mind that follows an individual throughout life?

Through an intimate confession of a young man who shares a taste in music and belongs to the same subculture, Joņevs’ novel offers a skillful, detailed portrait – at times even documentary-like – of social and economic circumstances in a small, newly independent Baltic state.


Author: Jānis Joņevs

Translators: Santa Domijan Zviedre and Dorta Jagić

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