Jaunā Gaita nr. 169, oktobris 1988

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JG 169

The most positive development in Latvia in the last 45 years has just taken place: the founding of the National Front. The way for the Front was paved by poets such as Vācietis and Ziedonis, who were able to articulate the concerns of their countrymen, by religious groups such as "Rebirth and Renewal", and by dissidents such as Gunārs Astra. JG editor Juris Mazutis applauds the Natio­nal Front and urges the Latvian emigre commu­nity to give it full support.

We begin this issue with a powerful poem sent from Latvia by Ilze Binde, expressing the fear for their nation's future felt by many Latvians - "I pray to God for everyone, who can still / Speak to me in my mother's tongue." Juris Mazutis, Jānis Va­nags, Pēteris Cedriņš and Ieva Lešinska have contributed lyric poems on universal themes, while Roberts Mūks writes about a Latvian femi­nine "ideal", Maija Nagizied, the "mystic rose, fire of the Himalayas, quintessence of magic". Elga Leja writes in a prophetic tone in "Warning": "That nation will not live, that passes judgement on itself, that in a black hour hacks wounds into its own flesh." We have selected for this issue 3 of 8 poems sent to us by Māris Čaklais, the editor of the literary newspaper Literatūra un Māksla: "Ethnic Supper", "Antiņš, the Weapon-Maker of Talsi", and a fragment of "Poem of Exultation". All 3 have themes from Latvian history - betrayal of one's own brother/countryman, working for other masters until no strength remains for one's own cause, and the 1905 revolution.

The poet Uldis Bērziņš is the subject of an essay by Gundars Pļavkalns, analyzing two volumes of his poetry. In Pļavkalns' view, much of Bērziņš' work is too experimental, too unfinished, to qualify as good poetry, but Pļavkalns also notes that Bērziņš has an "amazing talent for new ways of expression". Pļavkalns feels that "overstepping the boundaries of literary genres is one of the main characteristics of [Bērziņš'] work." Much of his work has been too controversial for the cen­sors: the poem "The year with a human face", about the invasion of Czechoslovakia, was written in 1968 - 1969, but "sat in a drawer" until this year. We reprint it in this issue, as well as Bērziņš' "Litene: A Memorial Attempt", a reference to the massacre of Latvian officers on Soviet orders at the beginning of the Second World War. The fate of small nations seems to be a major concern of Bērziņš: many of his poems refer to the Līvs, an almost extinct Finno-Ugric minority living on the shores of the Gulf of Rīga, and he has often translated poetry from other "minority" languages into Latvian. One of his translations, from the Turkmen poet Magtimguli, is printed in this issue.

Nikolajs Kalniņš, Jānis Klīdzējs and Gunārs Bekmans have contributed short stories to this issue. Klīdzējs writes in his native Latgallian, while Bekmans tries to use the dialect for atmo­spheric effect in the dialogue of his story.

We have an ironic juxtaposition of articles in this issue - Mārtiņš Lasmanis reviews a recent collec­tion of literary essays, edited by theatre critic Viktors Hausmanis, while Hausmanis contributes an article comparing the theatres of Latvia and North America, based on his recent visit to the USA. Lasmanis decides that the collection, titled "Modern Soviet Latvian Literature", published in Latvia in 1986, is too late - it is much too conser­vative, toeing the old official line too closely, to be credible in this era of "openness". Hausmanis, for his part, concludes that theatres in Latvia and North America perform different social functions - in America they are mostly entertainment, a change of pace from daily work, while in Latvia under the Soviets, the theatre has often served as a social conscience, indirectly expressing ideas that would be suppressed in other forums.

Imants Sakss writes about the international festi­val of folk music "Baltica 88" in Rīga this summer. Two groups from the emigre community: "Kolibri" from the USA and "Vilcējas" from Sweden, appeared at the festival. The "Echoes" section has more news on events in Latvia this past summer: Baņuta Rubess describes her wonderment on hearing the national anthem "Dievs svētī Latviju" sung on the stage and in the audience of the Daile Theatre in Rīga, while Vera Streita de­scribes the main themes and characters of the "rock opera" Lāčplēsis by Māra Zālīte and Zigmārs Liepiņš, based on Andrejs Pumpurs' epic poem of the same name, published 100 years ago.

A last echo: Indriķis Reinbergs describes 7 at­tempts to save the life of Col. Frīdrichs Briedis, an officer of the Latvian Riflemen, who had been arrested by the NKVD in 1918 for "counter-revo­lutionary activity" and sentenced to death. The attempts, including one by the commander of the Red Army's eastern front, Gen. Jukums Vācietis, all failed, and Briedis was shot on Aug. 27, 1918.

Vera Cekule has an article about the well-known pastelist Voldemārs Irbe (1893-1944) in this issue. Irbe's art was traditional, while his persona­lity was eccentric - these two traits made him an outsider, often ridiculed, in the Rīga art world of the 1920's and 1930's. Cekule shows that Irbe deserves more credit than he has been given in the past.

The frontispiece is by Jānis Šēnbergs, who lives in Australia, and the drawing from Saules dainas on pg. 47 is by Inese Jansons. The cover is by Ilmārs Rumpēters.


Ilze Valdmanis

Jaunā Gaita