Jaunā Gaita nr. 210, septembris 1997

JG 210

This issue marks a sad turning point for Jaunā Gaita. Laimonis Zandbergs, our editor since issue 25, Jan. 1960, died suddenly on Aug. 11, 1997, before work was completed on this issue. It will be difficult to carry on without him, and it will be hard for his as yet unnamed successor to fill his shoes. A number of authors and editors have contributed eulogies for Laimonis Zandbergs to this issue. Tālivaldis Ķiķauka emphasizes Zandbergs' ground-breaking (and to some, earth-shattering) achievements such as the publication of authors living under the Soviet regime. Māra Zandberga, his widow, describes how they met, and Biruta Rubesa talks about a charming phrase that Zandbergs often used to convince people: „Come with me!". Juris Mazutis describes Zandbergs' constant encouragement of his colleagues to pull the magazine together and his strength in ensuring the survival of Jaunā Gaita for almost 40 years. Aina Kraujiete, Baņuta Rubesa and Laila Vuškāne contributed eulogies in poetic form. There will be more in the next issue.

This issue also marks the retirement of our long-standing poetry editor Aina Kraujiete. She has selected a cross-section of leading Latvian poets for this issue: Gunars Saliņš, Baiba Bičole, Jānis Krēsliņš, Roberts Mūks and herself. All of them belonged to the innovative "Hell's Kitchen" group of poets living in New York City. Also included is Juris Zommers (Canada), the acting editor of this issue, and Laila Vuškāne (Latvia) who debuts with poems written during a stay in Canada in 1997.

We publish the first part of a new play by Uldis Siliņš (Australia), "Under the Southern Cross", in this issue. It deals with Latvians who fled repression following the 1905 revolution to Australia and England, and the contrast between their dreams of peace and the violence of their lives. The play was produced in Australia in 1996 and in Latvia it has been produced for television. Siliņš has also provided an extensive introduction and historical background for the play.

In issue 209 we introduced the correspondence of Latvia's first president Kārlis Ulmanis with one of his closest friends, the prosperous dairy farmer and political activist Hermanis Enzeliņš. In this issue we publish the first letter, written in 1903 from Leipzig, Germany, detailing a shipment of dairy equipment from Germany to Vidzeme and pointing to the modernization of Latvia during the last years of the czarist regime. This modernization was a major contributor to the 1905 revolution, while Ulmanis' energy in promoting modern dairy techniques led to Latvia's high achievements in this field in the 1920s and 1930s.

Andrievs Ezergailis (USA) contributes an autobiographical sketch of his childhood in a remote area of prewar Latvia, where his parents' dairy was the most technologically advanced feature of the area. As Ezergailis points out, a drawback of the Latvian school system of those years was the inculcation of authoritarian values in its pupils. It took Ezergailis many years of living in America to replace this mindset with more democratic values.

Ildze Kronta (Latvia) has contributed a review article on the writer Miervaldis Birze, who belongs to the first generation of authors of post-war Latvia. This generation succeeded, within the restrictions of the Soviet regime, in fostering a commitment to Latvian identity in literature, which is in sharp contrast, as Kronta notes, with the prevailing lack of such a commitment today.

The best-seller Sophie's World was translated into Latvian by Brigita Šiliņa. Aija Janelsiņa-Priedīte (Sweden) discussed the work involved in the translation with Šiliņa for this issue. Anita Liepiņa and Līga Gaide (Canada) interviewed composer Imants Kalniņš, whose Symphony No. 4 (Rock Symphony) was performed this spring by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra under conductor Neeme Jarvi as part of Jarvi's 60th birthday celebration. The origins of the symphony are in a song performed by Kalniņš' group Menuets in the 1970s, expressing the hopelessness of Soviet youth at that time. One of the songs in the symphony, with lyrics by Kelly Cherry, had been banned by Soviet authorities, but was restored for the Detroit performance. These days Kalniņš, who has entered Latvian politics, feels that music is a haven from the difficulties of active citizenship.

Juris Silenieks (USA) surveys the career of Māris Jansons, one of the world's foremost orchestral conductors, who recently became the conductor of the Pittsburgh Symphony. Silenieks notes the challenges facing Jansons, including shrinking funding and aging audiences. His 'workaholic" habits Jansons attributes to his Latvian heritage, while he gained most of his musical training in Russia.

Juris Žagariņš (USA) presents a segment of an on-line discussion with Dr. Juris Vīksniņš, professor of economics at Georgetown University, Washington D.C., about the political economics of America. The opinions expressed are strong and divergent. Don Marquis' Archy the Cockroach relates a very different conversation on the same topic, overheard during the Great Depression in the early 1930s.

The book review section has Mārtiņš Lasmanis' review of Gundega Repše's Apocryphal Shadows, and Gundars Pļavkalns' review of Emil Tod's Borderland (translated from Estonian by Guntars Godiņš). Biruta Sūrmane reviews Agate Nesaule's A Woman in Amber, written in vivid, idiomatic English depicting the life of a Latvian woman through World War II and exile in the USA. 'The book, which won an American Book Award, opens a window to a little-known world for English-language readers. Juris Silenieks reviews Dagnija Zigmonte's last novel Gardens in the Air, which depicts an unhappy love triangle among the nouveaux riches of independent Latvia. Silenieks notes parallels with Flaubert's Madame Bovary, although artistically this is perhaps not Zigmonte's best work.

The cover is by Voldemārs Avens, while the frontispiece is a portrait of Laimonis Zandbergs, photographed in the Royal Botanical Gardens, Hamilton, Canada by Jānis Valdmanis in May, 1996.

I. V., J.Z.


Jaunā Gaita