A Cloud of Vapour, the Cool of the Cellar: the Horror Genre in Latvian Literature


  • Bārbala Simsone




genre characteristics, horror fiction, Latvian literature, poetry, short story


The paper gives an insight into the horror fiction genre in Latvian literature, from folklore to modern literary works. Although the horror genre is represented by only a few works in Latvian literature, these works manifest several national characteristics. These characteristics are the main focus of the present study. Although Latvian folklore offers plenty of material for the horror genre, in the form of ghost stories and legends, very few writers have actually exploited these rich sources in their creative work. The first attempts to incorporate horror motifs into original literary works appear only at the beginning of the 20th century and, surprisingly, they are found in poetry rather than prose. The first elements of the horror genre in drama appeared in a play by Jānis Rainis. Prose was the last literary form where elements of horror fiction appeared. Short story writers first used elements of legend and folklore in a symbolic and allegorical manner, and only as late as the 1920s did they start to incorporate the supernatural without explaining it away rationally. Under the Soviet regime development of the horror genre stopped altogether, since it was unacceptable to the ruling system. The next traces of the horror genre began to appear in Latvian literature only in the 1970s and 1980s. New horizons opened when national independence was regained in 1990.


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