Jaunā Gaita nr. 145, (4) 1983

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JG 145

"Knots" is the title our history editor, Andrievs Ezergailis, gives to his always interesting and controversial column. In this issue, he writes about one of modern Latvian history's most complicated "knots", the Social Democratic Party leader Brūno Kalniņš, whose first volume of memoirs was published in Sweden this year. Kalniņš has fought many political battles in his long life, and, it seems, is still hotly defending positions he took even as long as 65 years ago, such as using "tactical necessity" as the reason the Social Democrats abandoned the Latvian Provisional Government in 1918, during its most difficult time.

Another Latvian historical knot is the mystery of the "drowned castles" of eastern Latvia. Such castles are a recurring motif of folktales from eastern Latvia, and archeologists have long suspected that these tales might have a factual basis. Archeologist J. Apals, in a two-part article, describes the work that has been done in solving the mystery, mainly on the wooden castle of Lake Āraiši, which was, in fact, built on a low peninsula in the lake during the ninth century A.D.. The castle was rebuilt and expanded four times during the next sixty years, and apparently destroyed during a battle in the tenth century. Nine other such lake castles are known in eastern Latvia, although none of these has been as thoroughly studied as the one in Lake Āraiši.

Vilis Motmillers has usually appeared on our pages as the "official" photographer of Latvian theatre in Australia. In this issue he contributes a memoir, entitled "The Four Musketeers", referring to himself and his three friends Spodris Klauverts, Herberts Sils, and Mintauts Eglītis. He describes the roles they played in developing contemporary Latvian cultural life in Australia, and the conservative opposition to them.

Arijs Vaško introduces us to Sandra Ikše-Bergmane, a young but already important art weaver in Sweden: she was one of three textile artists included in a representative show sent to the USA called "Scandinavia Today". Her work, she says, deals with her life and with people close to her. Although she thinks that art with political themes can have little political influence, she nevertheless uses her art as a political statement: "It is important to me to continue working in a "traditional" women's job, and to achieve that weaving be accepted as art in its own right."

Two other artists who are well known outside the Latvian community have also contributed to this issue. Cartoonist Māris Bišofs lives in New York, has published several books of his cartoons, and has received international awards for his work. His cartoon is on page 1. Imants Zilberts of Sweden contributed the visual comment on nationalism on page 41.

Nikolajs Bulmanis, our visual arts editor, writes about his tour this summer through Latvia and northern Europe, visiting Latvian artists and their exhibitions, as well as the Poster Biennale in Lahti, Finland, where Latvian artist Juris Dimiters won one of the eleven awards for his posters dealing with nature conservation. Music editor Imants Sakss discusses the major events of the seventh Latvian Song Festival in the USA during July, 1983, and Ilze Valdmane and Dace Šmite review the concert performance of Alfrēds Kalninš' opera Baņuta, conducted by Andrejs Jansons, at the festival.

Latvian song festivals are regarded not only as cultural events, but as major opportunities to strengthen and reaffirm our national identity. In view of exile Latvians' preoccupation with their ethnic identity, J. Purviņš Jurjāns opinions expressed in this issue on the future of nationalism, criticizing nationalism as inevitably leading to ethnic megalomania and the dominance of the state over the individual, will certainly provoke controversy.

In a less controversial vein, Valija Ruņģe continues her analysis of the folk-tale types Kurbads and Lāčplēsis. She suggests that the Kurbads tales could be used for cross-cultural comparisons of folk-tales, since certain elements of the tale appear to come from the east, while other elements are more often found to the west and in Scandinavia.

Roberts Mūks (USA) makes the major literary contribution to this issue. His poetry, though dealing with subjects such as depression and death, is at the same time earthy, optimistic, life-affirming. In "Advice to the Melancholic", he says "just rise a little above yourself, look / at yourself from that side where the grass grows because / it grows." The music of Beethoven and Mozart, called "heavenly" by others, to Mūks is as earthy as "the symphonies of the worms": "and Mozart, with his suite, having come down from heaven, declares "We won't ever go back there again."'

Other poetry is by Imants Ziedonis (Soviet Latvia), who visited Canada this summer. Dagmāra Igale (USA), Maija Meirāne (USA), Juris Zommers (Canada), and Visvaldis Reimanis (USA). Two short stories dealing with the experience of exile are by Kārlis Zvejnieks (USA) and Eduards Salna (England).

The cover is by Ilmārs Rumpēters. The frontispiece is by Kazimirs Laurs.


Ilze Valdmanis

Jaunā Gaita