About Anna

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I was born in Riga, Latvia, in a family of artists, actors and architects. Spent my childhood summers by a beautiful lake in a triangular house with a roof of reeds, designed by my grandfather – famous Latvian painter Edgars Iltners. He called it “a wigwam”. I’ve been into writing as far as I can remember. After school I went to study philosophy and started to work in journalism. For four years I worked in an editorial team for a design magazine, for another four served as an editor-in-chief of an online art and culture website, covering contemporary art in Scandinavia, Russia and Baltic countries. There have been many more adventures in between: modeling for friends, writing scripts for a home remodeling TV show and selling linen garments in a design shop. I also wrote a book about my dad, contemporary artist Kristaps Ģelzis. It was all sweat and fun, but I never felt truly at home in any of those jobs. I loved to write, but there was something missing.

When I was 30, my second son was born before Christmas of 2014; I left everything behind and said bye to all my professional contacts. I wanted to get out of the circle of opportunities and find a completely different ground. With no clue, what’s next, I left Riga and started to live in Jūrmala, a sea resort city that stretches like a snake between river Lielupe and Gulf of Riga, the blue pocket of the Baltic Sea. River and sea can even get as close as 300 meters in one part of Jūrmala. My house is in two minute walk from Lielupe and 15 minute bicycle ride from the beach. Long story short – I fell in love with water, especially with the ever-changing, brutal and beautiful sea.

I fell in love with books too. During the decade of hectic studying, running around and writing for assignments, I forgot to read for fun, to take my time and find my authors, the kindred spirits. It was Oscar Wilde and his obsessive reading habits that plugged me back to the world of literature. I cherish the “Oscar’s Books: A Journey Around the Library of Oscar Wilde” by Thomas Wright as one of my golden books.

Book by book, I was discovering a world of my own, a world where I felt at home. A world of sea and it’s many layers. Strong inspiration and guide into the depths of the sea in literature and the sea out there was and still is “RISINGTIDEFALLINGSTAR”, a book written by the ageless Philip Hoare, amphibian being, part whale, part writer.

One sunny summer day when I was reading “The Most Dangerous Book: The Battle for James Joyce’s Ulysses” by Kevin Birmingham, the story of Sylvia Beach inspired me to dream of a bookshop and library of my own. All the pieces of puzzle fell in place and I had an idea about a bookshop by the sea with books about the sea. In fact, Beach Books is partly because of Sylvia’s surname, my tribute to her and also to my favourite place on Earth, its edge.

The bookshop is still a dream, but I’m already in a beautiful world, living side by side with the seaside and discovering more writers and even more books. Each book gives me a better eyesight. I started my voyage around 2016 and have collected many sea books since then, although it is still a profoundly small collection. I decided to share the stories, to share the books.

In 2018 I have opened a sea library in Jūrmala for locals and others to read. You can borrow a book from my growing collection or I can send it to you by post. You can donate a book to the sea library to help to fill its shelves.

Right now the library is in my studio at home, but the books are reviewed and shared also here, for Beach Books (beachbooks.blog, a site that will be launched on November 10, 2018) to become a flooded resource of sea literature.

Anna Iltnere

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