Jaunā Gaita nr. 107, 1976

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JG 107

Valdemars Tone's letters to his wife Valentīna, edited by Gvīdo Augusts, provide many interesting glimpses of Tone's character and personality as well as the life style of impoverished young artists in 1922 Paris. The constant struggle to scrape up enough money for food and artist's supplies, and living in cramped quarters where conditions for painting are less than ideal, somehow become less important under the spell of Paris boulevards, cafes, and theatres. However, as Augusts has pointed out, Tone emerges in these letters not only as a confident and dedicated artist, but also as a very self-centered person. It is quite amusing to read his endless arguments why his wife should not join him in Paris.

Laimonis Mieriņš surveys art and art criticism in Latvia during 1974. The pros and cons of socialist realism are still debated in reviews of painting and sculpture. However, Mieriņš seems to imply that many of the most exciting and innovative works have been in such fields as ceramics, tapestry, and decorative arts. Ņina Luce discusses the repertory of Latvian theatre companies in North America, Australia, and Europe during the last 25 years. She deplores the tradition in many groups to emphasize Latvian classics, or perform Latvian plays exclusively, fearing that „modern life might pass them by." Her sympathies lie with the theatres in Australia; because there are fewer opportunities to see modern plays in English-language theatres there, Latvian theatre companies perform many translations. As a result, their repertory is larger, richer, and more varied than that of their counterparts in America.

Edīte Zuzena continues her analysis of the longer poems of Aleksandrs Čaks (see also JG 105); the current installment focuses on „The Candlestick" and „The Magician." Zuzena believes that these poems contain more specific autobiographical elements than Čaks' earlier works, mirroring such painful experiences as the dissolution of his marriage, betrayal by a close friend, and the poet's rejection by a certain segment of society. The transformation of a human being into a cold, inanimate candlestick, and the battle with terrors of the night and human cruelty in „The Magician" permit numerous interpretations; the emotional sources, however, lie in the author's personal experiences.

The plot of Alberts Bels' short story, „The Bundle," is minimal or non-existent; sudden illness, or even death, witnessed or experienced by the narrator, a bundle forgotten on a train, unexpected and unwanted personal revelations by a colleague, a bird's nest destroyed by cruel young boys -- these episodes only serve as springboards for the author's philosophizing about life, the fate of humanity, about sympathy and cruelty. Bels writes: "One of the characteristics of being human is the ability to feel sorrow, experience the sadness of loss. If we do not grieve over a trifling loss, will we grieve over a great one? If our hearts remain hard upon seeing a dead bird, will they not remain hard upon seeing a dead human being?" But --„What is humanity? If cruelty, too, is characteristic of human beings, then maybe cruelty is human and a human being without cruelty is only partly human. To my mind -- there must be cruelty. It must be hidden in the soul's deep dungeons and from time to time be exposed to sunlight... One must be first of all cruel toward oneself, toward bad habits, toward laziness, mental inertia, toward the mossy green peaceableness of everyday life." Aivars Klavis' story „Winter Ended -- Same As Last Year" starts out as a portrayal of the trivial, yet touching everyday concerns of small, ordinary people. However, the protagonist's one thoughtless breakout from his peaceful, humdrum married life ends tragically; irony saves it from becoming melodramatic.

Several poems in this issue present a fresh and unusual blending of disparate themes from history, literature, folklore, and modern life, combined with stylistic experiments in playing with word meanings and sounds. Ausma Jaunzeme's „Wounded Knee" draws parallels between broken covenants everywhere, whether they might involve Indians, Latvians, or whomever. Visvaldis Reimanis makes the raven of folksong sit in judgement over millenia; Austris Grasis brings Antinš, the archetypal innocent hero of fairy tale and legend to the present -- where he is struck dumb; and Ojārs Rozītis evokes Whitman and Hamlet in ironic celebrations of modern life's sad absurdities.

The cover and frontispiece are by Gvido Augusts.


Ilze Šedrika-Levis

Jaunā Gaita