Jaunā Gaita nr. 206, oktobris 1996

JG 206

This issue's poetry section begins with two long poems by Gunars Saliņš and Jānis Krēsliņš (both USA), dated 1956/1996 (Manhattan) and 1947/1967 (Tuebingen, Germany and Saddleback Mountain, Maine). These extended gestation periods are likely responsible for the poignant tone of the poems, reflecting the passage of time both at a personal level and for Latvians living in the West. Roberts Mūks (USA) records an epiphany in the new Latvia, as well as his take on some of the eternal verities, in his distinctive colloquial style. In the 1960s Saliņš, Krēsliņš and Mūks were all members of the innovative "Hell's Kitchen" group of Latvian artists and writers. Pēters Brūveris' (Latvia) macabre vision while sitting on a cold park bench in autumn, and Krēsliņš' translation of a poem by Conrad Ferdinand Meyer (1825 - 1898) completes the section. In addition, this issue has two poems by Māris Ruks (Latvia) and a poem by Māris Ķirsons (Canada), which vividly captures some reactions to the successful 10. Latvian Song Festival in Canada this summer.

Our prose authors in this issue, Gunars Bekmans and Tālivaldis Ķiķauka, are of the same generation (born between the two world wars in Latvia) and share an independent and ironical outlook even if their subject matter is quite different. Bekmans, living California, is sensitive to current issues. His story in this issue, "Death in Gambia" (Nāve Gambijā), examines ethnic and race relations. Tobago and Gambia are of special interest to Latvians because Duke Jakob of Courland established colonies there in the 17'th century. The story is about a group of Latvians from the USA making a tour of Gambia, and points out that even a dead member of an extinct species may thwart the efforts of the best scientific minds of our time. "Romualds" by Tālivaldis Ķiķauka (Canada) is about truth, perspective and the creation of literature. It is up to the readers to choose the story that fits their own point of view.

Laimonis Mieriņš (Great Britain) reviews two recent major art exhibitions. An exhibition of the 17'th century Dutch painter Jan Vermeer opened at the National Gallery in Washington with 23 of his paintings on display. Mieriņš observes that Vermeer's chiaroscuro technique and his idyllic interior subjects transport the viewer to an intimate timeless plane. The Philadelphia Museum of Art was the only North American stop for the retrospective exhibition of Paul Cezanne (1839 - 1906). Voldemārs Avens (USA) reports on two important exhibitions in New York by Latvian artists, Vija Celmiņa at the McKae Gallery and a group exhibition by Helena Heinrihsone, Frančeska Kirke, Ieva Iltnere and Zoja Frolova at the Mimi Ferzt Gallery.

Pēteris Vasks is arguably Latvia's leading composer today, writes Gunars Zvejnieks (Sweden).

Vasks was one of four composers represented at the Stockholm New Music 1996 festival, along with lngvar Lidholm, Harrison Birtwistle and Franco Donatoni. A highlight of the festival program was Vasks' ballade for 12 voices, "Litene", memorializing the 1941 Soviet deportation of Latvian army officers to Siberia. Vasks uses a wide variety of contemporary techniques but has moved away from an extreme avantgarde style. In Vasks' view a composer can't be an egoist writing for a narrow audience, but must be able to reach a wider audience.

Nora Kūla (USA) laments the recent untimely death of writer, linguist and JG contributor Dr. Valdis Zeps. Zeps was the author of Ķēves dēls Kurbads, a hilarious satire of Latvian folklore and other sacred Latvian cows. Andrievs Ezergailis (USA) in his regular column "Knots" writes about politics, justice and historiographical and literary standards in Latvia today. Ezergailis believes that democracy is getting stronger with every election, in spite of the efforts of several parties to destabilize it, but he feels that the justice system is still permeated by the thinking of the Soviet regime. Ezergailis also describes Midsummer Night in Riga, when the city was abandoned by its inhabitants in favour of the countryside, as being "pollinated by the flowers of silence".

In the concluding segment of his essay (begun in issue 205), contributing editor Juris Mazutis (Canada) touches on the many social changes already evident as a result of technological and economic pressures and urges us to become active participants in shaping the emerging new age to satisfy our needs, rather than passively giving in to commercially-driven forces.

In this issue we print the first part of Uldis Silinš' (Australia) humourous reminiscences about the Latvian Song Festival in Gotland in 1979 organized by the World Association of Free Latvians. Our new section on cyberspace has three authors. Ilmārs Grants (Latvia) offers his thoughts about the democratization of society, while Juris Žagariņš (USA) contributes his translation of Don Marquis' poem about the spider and the fly, as well giving practical advice about the use of electronic mail. Žagariņš quotes Marshall McLuhan and Sven Birkerts, who commented on the interactive database Perseus, that "I can't think of Perseus without also thinking of Icarus, heedless son of Daedalus, who allowed his wings to carry him over the invisible line that was inscribed across the skyway." (Sven Birkerts, The Gutenberg Elegies, Ballantine Books, 1995, pg. 140)

The frontispice is by Valdis Didrichsons (Canada) and the cover is by Ilmārs Rumpēters (USA).

J.Z., L.Z.


Jaunā Gaita