Jaunā Gaita nr. 137, 1982. g. 1. numurs

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JG 137


Several articles in this issue deal with Latvian art and artists. Laimonis Mieriņš contributes his annual survey of the arts in Soviet Latvia, touching on significant exhibitions of painting, sculpture, graphics, photography, ceramics, textiles, and industrial design. Many artists, particularly painters Boriss Bērziņš, Romualds Geikins, Herberts Sīlis, and Erika Gulbe, show freshness, individuality and originality, but Mieriņš agrees with the Soviet Latvian critics whom he quotes to the effect that there is a general tendency toward routinely traditional and unadventurous works. This is especially true of exhibitions under official government sponsorship, which are very important in the careers of Latvian artists but encourage narrowly utilitarian and puritanical conceptions. Mieriņš concludes that Latvian art is under the sword of Damocles; the regime may not allow it to develop naturally.

"Remembering Teodors Zaļkalns," by Soviet Latvian critic Vizbulīte Titāne, commemorates the tenth anniversary of the famous sculptor's death. Zaļkalns (1876-1972) studied in various European centres, including briefly with Rodin in Paris, and absorbed many influences, but he always maintained that he found his true inspiration in the Latvian people and the familiar natural objects of the Latvian countryside. These he celebrated in poetry as well as sculpture. His figures of the most banal subjects, like barnyard animals, show artistry equal to that of his memorial sculptures and portraits, and the reason is that he brought profound perception and technical mastery to all his work. As a teacher at the Latvian State Art Academy, he inspired a whole generation of Latvian sculptors with his integrity and dedication. His life enriched Latvian culture.

One of the two new features in this issue, "From One Point of View..." by Nikolajs Bulmanis, Jr., looks at current events of interest on the artistic scene. His column includes some comments on art journalism in the Soviet Latvian press, on the George Costakis Collection of Russian avant garde art, which includes work by two Latvians, and on various other items.

The other new feature is "Knots" by Andrievs Ezergailis. This is devoted to political and ideological issues, and this instalment is devoted to a critique of Alfreds Braunfelds' book, Marksistu ideoloģija un stratēģija (Marxist Ideology and Strategy). Ezergailis argues that Braunfelds has failed, in common with many exile Latvians, to distinguish Marx and his doctrine from the ideology of the Soviet Union, which has been shaped by Lenin and Stalin, among others.

In the conclusion of "Maestro Anšlavs Eglītis and his Novels" (the first part of which appeared in our last issue), Edīte Zuzena looks at two of the many books he has written in America, Omartija kundze (Mrs. O'Marty, 1958) and Piecas dienas (Five Days,1976). The former is about a cool, unemotional woman married to a man twice her age, and it shows her gradually discovering the genuine love that ties her to her husband. Zuzena calls attention to the strong and delicate drawing of the central characters. The latter novel deals with a visit to Rīga in which an individualistic exile Latvian comes to terms with both a hostile Russian and the conflict between his ideology and that of his homeland at present. Here the emphasis is on cool-headed thought, and Eglītis shows his sympathy for the Objectivism of Ayn Rand. His style has become less pyrotechnical than in Homo novus, but the proper balance of head and heart remains a central concern in his writing.

Laima Kalniņa's "In the Home of Damala" describes a visit to the home of Daktchen Rimpoche, an exile Tibetan Buddhist priest of high rank. Kalniņa's daughter, a student of the Orient, accompanied the Rimpoche on a recent trip to India. Watching the slides of this journey raises questions of cultural identity, and Kalniņa comes to feel her kinship, as an exile Latvian, with these similar exiles from a different part of the world.

"Quo usque tandem" by the late historian Miķelis Bukšs (1912-1977) is subtitled "Some Conclusions about A. Šilde's Latvijas vēsture 1911-1940 (Latvian History 1911-1940)." This review-article originally appeared in Latgolas Bolss (The Voice of Latgele) in 1976; we reprint it from the Latgallian dialect in a Latvian translation by Jezups Rudovičs. Bukšs takes issue with Šilde's treatment of Latgale in this period. Šilde has taken the side of the Western Latvian rulers of Latgale, accepting some baseless "facts" and ignoring well-documented ones. He has made it appear that the Latgallian language has no value, that Latgallians themselves agreed to secondary status for their language, that the Latgallians were reluctant participants in the early conferences leading to Latvian independence, and that they did not support the Latvian military. Bukšs argues that these are "legends" useful to the Western Latvian historian who finds it hard to deal with the Latgallian question.

Sports commentator Gunārs Jakobsons contributes a short history of Latvian participation in the Olympics, mentioning especially gold medalists Inese Jaunzeme (javelin, Melbourne Games, 1956) and Jānis Lūsis (javelin, Mexico City Games, 1968).

In the literary department we have poetry by Astrīde Ivaska (USA), Jānis Gorsvāns (USA), Maija Meirāne (USA), Juris Mazutis (Canada), Visvaldis Reimanis (USA), Astrida Stānke (USA), and Vitauts Ļūdēns (Soviet Latvia); prose_poetry by Rita Rumpētere (USA), Margita, Gūtmane (W. Germany), and Visvaldis Reimanis (USA); and prose by Erna Ķikure (Australia) and Lidija Dombrovska (Denmark), the latter accompanied by the author's own illustrations.

The cover is by Ilmārs Rumpēters.


Jānis Svilpis

Jaunā Gaita