Toetavad müüdid ja enesejutustamine Nora Ikstena romaanides „Elu pühitsus” ja „Neitsi õpetus” [The supportive role of myths and the practices of telling the Self in Nora Ikstena’s novels Celebration of Life and The Teaching of a Virgin]

Berit Kaschan


This article focuses on the role of myths and storytelling in people’s self-narrating process. The analysis is based on the Latvian writer Nora Ikstena’s two novels Celebration of Life (1998, translated into Estonian in 2003 by Ita Saks) and The Teaching of a Virgin (2001, translated into Estonian in 2011 by Kalev Kalkun). Nora Ikstena (b. 1969) is one of the most famous contemporary Latvian writers, and her enchanting metaphorical prose has gained a lot of att ention in Latvia and abroad. Among Ikstena’s main interests are life stories, and (re)constructing lives through storytelling is one of the main themes in both of the novels analysed in the current article. Celebration of Life and The Teaching of the Virgin are highly metaphorical and insightful novels; the stories they tell are played out mostly in the characters’ inner landscapes, refl ecting their memories, emotions, dreams, associations etc. In addition, the life stories of the novels’ protagonists are interlaced with different myths and fragments of mythical substance. The aim of the current article is to give an analytical overview of the role of myth in Ikstena’s characters’ life stories and of its function in dealing with life crises. The female protagonists of both novels are young women who do not really know their mothers (or fathers) and therefore deal with several complex emotional and psychological issues. Both leading characters – Helena in Celebration of Life and Asnate in The Teaching of a Virgin – have reached the point where in order to move on with their lives, they need to rethink, retell and (re)construct some aspects of their lives fi rst. Accomplishing this dif- fi cult task successfully defi nitely requires support. Both women are looking for something to believe in, a greater story to lean on, to help them find their own places in the world and to make them feel that they belong. In these processes, different myths start to play a significant role. Fragments, motifs and symbols from ancient Livonian mythology and Christian mythology help the protagonists to form their stories, and the protagonists themselves start to re-shape the myths. This particularly involves the female aspect of Christian mythology, which is enriched with the knowledge of the ancient Livonians, whose religion focussed primarily on the worship of the feminine substance of the universe.

KeywordsNora Ikstena, myth, Livonian religion, life stories, memory, ritual storytelling

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ISSN 2504-6616 (print/trükis)

ISSN 2504-6624 (online/võrguväljaanne)