Jaunā Gaita nr. 127, 1980

< JG 126   JG 128 >

JG 127

"Our group is small, but even small streams run clear if they flow from a pure spring, and the spring whose burbling we always hear and which always draws us deep into itself is our folk poetry." This quotation from Kārlis Skalbe appears in Imants Sakss' column, "Sounds and Echoes", but it might also serve as a statement of the theme of this issue.

Such a theme is most evident in JG contributing editor Vaira Freiberga's essay, "The Poetic Imagination in the Latvian dainas," of which we print the first part here. The conditions under which poetry is composed and perceived within an oral tradition are now understood to differ very greatly from the conditions of written literature, and Freiberga makes full use of these new insights in folklore and psychology. Her analysis discloses a deep-rooted distinction between the "centrifugal" style of the dainas and the "centrypetal" style of modern literature. In a series of contrasts between these two styles, Freiberga is able to characterize the dainas as a very special variety of lyric poetry. She looks also at the ideology of these songs - the wisdom transmitted anonymously by the folk poet. Finally, she applies the results of this analysis to a group of dainas that share a common motif but that use this image to convey a wide variety of meanings and emotions. The conclusion of this essay will appear in the next issue.

Soviet Latvian Saulcerīte Viese approaches folklore from a different direction in "One Hundred Years Ago", an essay in literary history. 1879 is a watershed year in Latvian letters - it witnessed the death of Auseklis, the leader of the Romantic movement, and the publication of Mērnieku laiki (The Time of the Surveyors), a major Realist work. Viese points out, however, that both Auseklis and the brothers Kaudzītes found inspiration in the folk - Auseklis capturing the true spirit of their songs while the Kaudzītes portrayed them with loving accuracy. This authenticity was lacking in the work of the contemporary "ethnic epigones", and Viese discusses the responses of various critics to this superficial school. The most important of the critics was Andrejs Pumpurs, who showed the superiority of the true folk poetry, and who later contributed his own great work, the epic Lāčplēsis, to the Latvian tradition.

A transformed Lāčplēsis appears as a character in the controversial musical drama, Varoņdarbi (Deeds of Heroes). JG editor Juris Mazutis contributes a review article on this work, touching also on the present state of exile Latvian drama and the role of the critic. Varoņdarbi has been attacked for its satirical use of traditional folk heroes, and it has been praised for its ambitiousness and originality. Mazutis steers a middle course: he praises the stagecraft of author-director Baņuta Rubesa, the musicianship of composer-conductor Dace Štauvere-Aperāne, and the talent of the actors, musicians, designers and others involved in the production; but he is dissatisfied with contradictory elements in the libretto's construction. The claims made for the work beforehand he considers excessive, and he argues that the author's stated desire to reform Latvian drama is based on an imperfect understanding of the Latvian dramatic tradition. Nevertheless, Mazutis greets this play both as a sign that the generation born in exile wishes to carry on that tradition and as a significant achievement in its own right.

In his column, Imants Sakss also discusses Varoņdarbi, defending it and quoting Kārlis Skalbe to the effect that the young sometimes have clearer vision than their elders.

The literary section in this issue is full of good things. We print here the concluding instalment of extracts from Jānis Viesiens' play, Koeksistence (Coexistence). We also have two short stories, "That Wasn't a Fairytale" by Indra Gubiņa, the 1979 recipient of the Jānis Jaunsudrabiņš Fund Award, and "Life" by Irēne Blūmfelde; and we have poetry by Rita Rumpētere, Ints Cīrulis. Inese Baļķīte, Lolita Gulbe, Dzintars Rubenis, Dagnija Dreika, Visvaldis Reimanis, Lidija Dombrovska, Teodors Tomsons, Juris Kronbergs, and Valters Nollendorfs.

In a lengthy review in this issue JG contributing editor Rolfs Ekmanis discusses an important publication in Latvian Scholarship, Līvija Vītoliņa's bibliography of special collection of Latvian books, periodicals and ephemera at the University of Helsinki. This covers the years 1820- 1917 and constitutes one of the main research collections of Latvian materials in the free world.

The cover is by Ilmārs Rumpēters. The frontispiece is by Ilgvars Šteins.

Jānis Svilpis

Jaunā Gaita