Set in the 1960s, Nakedness is the tale of a young man who has just completed his military service and gone straight to Randava to surprise Marika, the beautiful woman with whom he’s been corresponding for some time. The two have never met in person however, and when the young man arrives at her door, he quickly becomes entangled in a bizarre mystery: Marika claims that she has never written to him; in fact, she appears to be involved with someone else. And none of her flatmates will admit to sending the letters.
Humiliated, he prepares to return to Riga, but is convinced by one of Marika’s flatmates to stay a little longer – a decision that throws him even deeper into the web of conflicting relationships he has unwittingly entered. Each clue he uncovers only makes things more confusing, and eventually the young man’s own secrets and mendacity are also revealed. The nakedness that results from being deprived of our deceptions can be unpleasant, but it may be a necessary part of growing up and facing the world.
Skujins is an original stylist capable of deploying acute psychological observation as well as clever and often witty imagery, and Uldis Balodis has managed to retain this in his excellent English translation. This novel will introduce the reader to a different world precisely because of the writing and the freshness of the dialogue, and not so much for the society it depicts, which resembles in some ways the mass society that also existed in Western Europe at the time, reminding us that even in those more hopeful times, the human condition was still a struggle with desires, ambitions and the image of ourselves we wish to project.
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