The truth that no one needs

  • 2000-04-06
  • By Antra Linarte
RIGA – In a god-forsaken place, arms, limbs and other body parts are found. Police close the case, but journalists start their own investigation. They play a fascinating but dangerous game risking their own lives. The truth is found out, but no one needs it ...

So unfolds the plot of Maija Pohodneva's first book. She claims to be the first woman in Latvia who has ever written a crime fiction novel.

For the 26-year-old Pohodneva, tales of crime and death and police incompetence are not fiction. Since 1996, she has worked as a journalist. First at the Latvia's biggest newspaper Diena, then Jauna Avize, several television stations and other newspapers. At the moment she is working at the Riga evening paper Rigas Balss and studying journalism at the University of Latvia.

She is married and raising two children.

Her interests are medical jurisprudence, psychology and psychiatry, criminalistics, pharmacology and toxicology - all necessary to be an investigator.

As admits Maija, there are no subjects which would bore her, because life is so fascinating, and that enthusiasm is felt in her stories.

She holds a national award "Hope of Journalism 99," but as reckons Pohodneva, this shows only that she is at the beginning of a long way and that this is the right one.

- You are a journalist. Why a book?

It was despair, it was the impossibility to live with all this and the book was just a therapy. Some people write a diary, some drink over night. What ever you can think of - how to get rid of the stress? For me, it happened to be writing a book.

- What drove you into this despair?

That you can change absolutely nothing, you can rant and rave, but your work doesn't make any sense. It was in 1998 when I first came across a situation which drove me to despair, but then gradually I tried to find a way out of it, and in 1999 I wrote a book. It took me three months from March to May.

- What is the book about?

My novel is nothing else than some facts in unreal situations, but as long as you put real facts in unreal situations, no one can blame you.

The book itself is about losing illusions. It's about three people, two journalists and a policeman, who try to sort out themselves and circumstances around them. They find out the truth but nobody needed it.

- Why this connection with reality?

The facts are not real, but the situations are. I am again walking on the knife blade. I am not a professional in writing books. I can't make up things and characters. Why should I concoct them if everything is already around us. I can show it only the way I have experienced it myself as a journalist only reflect it, and by putting it into unreal combinations can make a book - crime fiction. If you take potatoes you can fry them, mash them, but they are potatoes anyway.

- Is it the book you derive your strength from?

It is not to derive your strength, it's more not to go crazy. I was writing it to get out the fear. People can read it drinking coffee or tea and be scared. It is dreadful, emotional, usually people read it in one night, but you should not be afraid because in reality there are even more terrible things going on.

- So you associate your book with what is really going on here?

Associations, yes. It is a book. Real facts in unreal combinations. Lots of exaggerations and allegories. The house which symbolizes evil, with all those things going on there, are the feelings people are experiencing here at the moment - exploitation of your brain, your mind, your body and your work. That is the symbol.

For someone, evil is associated with scorched breakfast, for a second, something else, for the third with a death of his beloved dog, for the fourth it is the house in which horrible things are going on. Each person has his own measure of evil.

- What if the situation had really happened?

I would have no evidence. If really such a thing would have happened, no one would let me get the evidence. So no evidence, no story. Of course there are exaggerations in the book, but, sorry, we all know what is going on here.

- Have you put up with a lot of things?

Yes, of course. But I don't really know if it really matters any more. The abstract word "freedom" doesn't exist. After the story is published, we always have to think about the consequences. Like recently, I wanted to show people how easy it is to buy drugs in Riga, but someone sees corpus delicti in my story. In the same way, I write a story about dysentery and someone can say that I have infected all Riga.

- How did you become an investigative journalist?

From the beginning I was working on very neutral stories. In May 1998, I came across a story about how people who don't have any relatives are buried. I was there and saw 10 graves, but eleven coffins. One of the coffins was unmarked so I asked what is that? And the reply was :"No one has stayed on the earth, we will bury him as well." So I started to investigate what was going on.

It was the same as in the book. You first think - what a nightmare - there are no connections, but when you put that jigsaw puzzle together, you can see horrible pictures.

- Would not it be another book, I mean, that what is going on here in Latvia?

When all, what is going on here, is over, I will give my version of it. One-tenth of the book is written. It will be crime fiction again, Zero zone of evil. Why zero zone? The pedophilia atom bomb has crashed so heavily that all what has remained is only carbon, everything has been reduced to ashes. All who were guilty are innocent, journalists and witnesses are in the same pot, all are being interrogated, but no one really cares anymore what is going on. It looks completely absurd.

- What about a freedom of the press in Latvia?

I don't want to say anything. I have found a way out of my situation, and I don't care how others are solving it. In my opinion abstract freedom does not exist. You are as free you let yourself be and on your own responsibility.

- Where are you going and what is your aim?

I don't have an abstract aim. What I am doing is my aim, and I like it a lot. Help those who needs a help and smack those who deserve it, maybe that's the aim.

The world is too brittle, so we can't behave like an elephants in the china store.