The National Library in Riga
President Vejonis and First Lady Vejone,
Director of the National Library,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Thank you for the warm welcome we have received here at the National Library of Latvia. The Crown Prince and I have been very much looking forward to our visit to Riga. The venue of our event today – the magnificent ‘Castle of Light’, or gaismas pils – is quite breathtaking.
The 100 years that have passed since your declaration of independence have been eventful – marked by major achievements and progress, but also at times by challenges and hardship. The Latvian people have shown consistent and impressive determination in their struggle to achieve freedom and independence for their country. It is a great pleasure for me to extend our most heartfelt congratulations on your centenary.
As an ambassador for Norwegian literature abroad, I am impressed by the beauty of your National Library. This is an extraordinary building with great symbolic value. The People’s Bookshelf is a wonderful idea and an inspiring concept. I am pleased to be able to bring you some Norwegian literature – in Latvian:
Waffle Heart, or Vafeļu sirdis, was the first book by Maria Parr – a children’s author close to my heart. In her impressing début, she tells the story of Trille and his best friend, Lena. They live in a typical hamlet on the Norwegian coast, and we follow the two inventive nine-year-olds through a whole year.
The good friends get into all kinds of escapades, but in between the humour and laughter, Maria Parr also makes room for a child’s sadness and the fear of losing your loved ones. Waffle Heart was published in Norway in 2005, and became an instant classic. I am delighted to be able to donate the book to the People’s Bookshelf.
Both Latvia and Norway attach great importance to literature and its role in defining and redefining our heritage and national identities. However, literature knows no borders. Our shared interest in the Norwegian author Knut Hamsun is a good example of that.
I understand that up to 1940, more than 860 000 copies of Hamsun’s works were sold in Latvia. That is quite remarkable in a country that had less than 2 million inhabitants at the time. Literature can also play a vital role in helping the younger generation to find themselves and their place in society. We look forward to meeting some young Latvians later today to discuss these issues.
The cooperation between our countries in all sectors of society is stronger than ever, and I hope that the ongoing celebration of Latvia’s 100th anniversary will be a wonderful experience, enjoyed by all.