Jaunā Gaita nr. 149, (3) 1984

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JG 149

We begin this issue with the long-awaited return to literature of novelist, poet and translator (Joyce's Ulysses) Dzintars Sodums, whose first literary publication in over twenty years, "The Hedgehog in the Well" is presented in part, in this issue. The conclusion will be in JG 150. The hedgehog of the title was once a human, a Latvian of the generation who grew up after World War I and whom, as the hedgehog says, "they chased and terrified, to make me vicious. To make me want to take revenge and hurt others. I thought then that it would be better to be an animal. I wished this so hard, that one day I turned into a hedgehog." Now the hedgehog lives near an abandoned farmhouse in Sweden. One night the hedgehog accidentally falls into the farm's well, and, fearing that he won't make it out of the well alive, uses the time left to him to tell the bitter story of his life as a human to the other animals who come to the well to watch him.

The other major literary contribution to this issue is the conclusion of Māra Zālīte's play "Māra's Room Is Full". Zālīte's theme is the meaning of life: three sons and a daughter grieve at their father's funeral, each wishing for the one thing that it seems to them, would make their lives complete. Māra, the Earth Mother, appears and grants each his wish: the eldest son receives a tablecloth that is always covered with food, the second son receives a hat that makes him invisible, so that he can always win in battle, the third son receives seven-league boots, and the daughter receives the gift of unlimited artistic inspiration, in order to create beautifully ornamented textiles. After twenty years, the four meet at their father's house and discover that the gifts, in the end, were useless: the tablecloth becomes a motive for murder and robbery, the hat brings undeserved honours to its wearer, the boots bring only superficial experiences, and her art causes the daughter to set herself apart from life and above her fellow humans, neglecting those who need her love instead of her creativity. By the end of the play, they realize that only their "bare heads, bare hands and souls" will save them from their troubles and only love for "the earth - our father and mother" will fill their souls and give meaning to their lives.

Laimonis Mieriņš contributes his annual survey of the visual arts in Latvia for the year 1983, discussing the major shows and innovative newcomers. He describes the problems of architecture in Latvia with the lack of quality building materials, the lack of discipline in the building trades, where a 90% completion of plans is regarded as a finished job, and the lack of consistent, long-term municipal planning. One positive note is that the construction of single-family dwellings is back in some favour, after long years as the orphan of the housing industry in the Soviet Union.

The young Australian artist Imants Tillers is featured in Nikolajs Bulmanis' column. Two of Tillers' works appear in this issue, on pages 2 and 51. The work on page 51, entitled "Settlement at Papunya" is structured on Jānis Jaunsudrabiņš' pen and ink illustration of "Pieguļā" (the nightwatch of horses in spring) from his classic The White Book. This painting was one of ten largescale works of Tillers that were seen in New York's PSI exhibition hall this spring, as part of a show of three prominent young Australian artists. As Bulmanis points out, figures from Jaunsudrabiņš appear in almost all of the paintings by Tillers in the show. Other artists cited in Bulmanis' column are Jānis Stradiņš (Rīga) and Jēkabs Zvilna (Canada), Juris Dimiters, who won one of the three prizes at the Colorado International Poster Biennale in 1983, and whose work has been reproduced in Graphis No. 229, Biruta Baumane, who had a one-person show in Moscow this year, and Jānis Pauļuks, who died recently in Rīga, iconoclastic and individualistic right to the end of his life.

In this issue we present the first part of Valdis Liepiņš' essay "The Armenians - a nation that will survive. An example for the Latvians?" Liepiņš compares Armenian history, geography, culture, the present situation in the Soviet Union and in exile, and population trends with those of Latvia, and tries to determine the reasons for the Armenians' much better outlook for survival, in terms of population growth, as compared with the Latvians, who have achieved essentially zero population growth and will soon be outnumbered by other nationalities in their own territory. The conclusions of the essay, which has been orally presented several times in USA and Canada, have aroused considerable controversy among Latvians by suggesting that one reason for the Armenians' success is that they have made their political goals secondary to the primary goal of sheer physical survival as a nation.

Our political goals are discussed by Andrievs Ezergailis, who criticizes the decision by the American Latvian Association not to publish Eso Antons Benjamiņš' proposed English-language journal Latvian Windows. Ezergailis feels that Windows would have been a high-quality, credible (to English-language readers) product, which would have benefited Latvians politically more in the long run than its replacement, the Latvian News Digest.

Poetry in this issue is by Juris Mazutis (Canada), Karmena Kurzemniece (Australia), Lūcija Kalniņa (Australia), and Inguna G (USA). Tālivaldis Ķiķauka and Imants Sakss contribute their regular columns. Laimonis Zandbergs describes his impressions of Europe in 1984.

The cover Photograph is by Bruno Rozītis.


Ilze Valdmanis

Jaunā Gaita