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Outstanding Latvian poet and playwright

 Rainis, real name – Jānis Pliekšāns (b. September 11, 1865 in Varslavāni of the Dunava rural municipality, d. September 12, 1929 in Majori; buried at the Raiņa Cemetery in Riga) – one of the most outstanding Latvian authors, a poet and playwright.
Rainis spent his childhood at the half-manors of Tadenava, Randene, Berķenele, Vasiļova and Jasmuiža, rented by his father. Graduation from the Riga City (German) Grammar School (1884) and the Law School of St.Petersburg University (1888) was followed by law practice in Vilnius and Jelgava (1889-1891) and four years as the editor of the Dienas Lapa newspaper in Riga (1891-1895) during the very peak of the Jaunā Strāva (New Current) movement activities. It was during the latter period that Rainis met his future spouse, the poetess Aspazija. He returned to Jelgava afterwards, then stayed in Berlin and Panėvežys, was arrested and spent some time in the Panėvežys, Liepāja and Riga prisons (1897) and was exiled to Pskov and Slobodsk (1897-1903) – it was the time during which Rainis was only coming to terms with his poet’s calling and when his beliefs on the power of contemporary poetry to influence life were formed. The 1901 comedy Half Idealist is stylistically very different from the playwright’s later dramatic works. Poems written in Slobodsk were compiled into his first volume of poetry Far-Off Reflections on a Blue Evening published in 1903, an innovative collection at the time with the structured internal drama of its cycles of poems.

On return to Latvia, Rainis lived in Jelgava, Jūrmala and Riga, and from 1904 – in Jaundubulti. He participated in the revolutionary movement of 1905. His Sowing Storm collection is considered the most brilliant volume of poetry dedicated to the revolution of 1905 in Latvian literature. During the period, Rainis also wrote Fire and Night, a symbolic drama in which he called upon the legendary hero Lāčplēsis to defend the statehood of Latvia.

When political backlash to the revolutionary activities started, Rainis and Aspazija immigrated to Switzerland (December 31, 1905). During the emigration years a recurring theme in his poetry was nostalgia and anguish caused by thoughts of his nation’s fate. Several of his plays are reflections on the subject of popular freedom (The Gold Horse 1909, Indulis and Ārija 1912, I Played and Danced 1915). The years immediately before and during World War I were the time when Rainis wrote two of his most philosophical works – the End and Beginning collection of poems (1912) and tragedy Joseph and His Brothers (1919). End and Beginning is based on the theme of development and constant change; it’s a philosophical reflection on the mission of man. The tragedy Joseph and His Brothers is centred around the subject of love, hate, revenge and forgiveness. Joseph’s tragic loneliness is that of every individual who chooses an unbeaten path.

In 1920, Rainis and Aspazija returned to Latvia. Rainis was elected to the Constitutional Assembly in 1920 and the Saeima (Parliament) (1922, 1925, 1926) from the Social Democratic Party. He was the co-founder of the Dailes Theatre (1920) and its first director. Later he also held the office of the Director of the National Theatre (1921–1925) and the Minister of Education. He often travelled abroad. In Latvia, Rainis published his Dagda’s Five Sketchbooks, a collection of poems the author himself described as a novel in verse. It is the life story of Dagda, a man living in exile, and contains a number of serene love poems and meditations on the essence of human existence. Rainis is also the author of several collections of poems for children which have become the classics of Latvian children’s literature (The Golden Sieve 1920, The Little Summer Princes and Princesses 1924, A Little Bird on a Tree 1925).

The highest achievement of Rainis’ playwrighting during the 1920’s was the epic tragedy Ilya Muromets (1923) which the author himself labelled “a tragedy of old age”.

Rainis died on September 12, 1929 in his summer cottage and was buried on September 15 at the Riga New Cemetery (later renamed the Raiņa Cemetery in his honour).

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marc 02.05.2013
Wasn`t he just Rainis and his real name - Janis Plieksans?