Jaunā Gaita nr. 214, septembris 1998

JG 214

As independent Latvia attempts to reintegrate into Western Europe, Skaidrīte Rubene (USA) provides a "handbook" for the cultural sphere. What basics should Europeans know about Latvian culture and history? She suggests introducing them to Latvian folk songs, central to the development of Latvian self- awareness, and discusses the role of historical events in shaping our identity. Conversly, what are the roots of European culture? Rubene argues that familiarity with classical Greek culture is one essential to being European.

Jānis Krēslinš (USA) translates an article by Detlef Henning published in Baltische Briefe (April/May 1998) which refutes the contention by Pēteris Krupņikovs that 3/4 of Latvians in 1917 supported Lenin. However, this misconception largely explains the widespread brutal reprisals by units of Landeswehr. Krēsliņš adds a postscript listing works which describe these atrocities (Ernst von Salomon, Werner Bergengruen).

The theme of misleading stereotypes is also seen in Andrievs Ezergailis (USA) critique of Aivars Stranga's Hebrews and the Dictatorships in the Baltic States, 1926-1940. While it has some useful analyses, Ezergailis concludes that the book exhibits a fatal lack of balance in its contention that anti-Semitism in Latvia during its independence was a prelude to the holocaust.

In the previous issue of JG Ilmars Bastjānis Krasts relived the occupation of Latvia by the Soviets, then by the Nazi Germans. Now he describes his release from a German army prisoner-of-war camp in Austria to civilian life, which turns into a harrowing process.

In early June, the Saeima voted tentatively to approve changes in the law pertaining to naturalization, automatically granting citizenship to children of non-citizen residents born after Aug. 1991. Kiberkambaris presents a discussion from the internet mailing list SVEIKS on the pros and cons of this law and the implications for the language and the culture of the land.

Our poetry section features the eminent Māris Čaklais (Latvia), with selections from his forthcoming collection. Our second contributor, InESe (Latvia) has just begun to be published. This is her first appearance in JG.

Gunars Bekmans (USA) contributes a farcical TV play The Wedding. A carload of the groom's relatives, Latvian Americans, literally crashes into the farmyard of the bride's mother in Latvia. Romance, assisted by generous amounts of cognac, is seemingly in the air between the more-or-less single parents, but the real wedding is a surprise to everyone.

Juris Silenieks (USA) evaluates the first season of Mariss Jansons as conductor and director of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.

Jansons has vigorously tackled budget problems, and through such innovations as the "musical mystery" has reached out to a wider audience.

Mārtiņš Lasmanis (Sweden) reviews the brilliant new version of Verdi's Don Carlos, part of the first Rīga Opera Festival, produced in cooperation with the Stockholm National Opera. Imants Zemzaris (Latvia) surveys the growing list of music by the best contemporary Latvian composers now available on compact discs.

Anita Liepiņa (Canada) looks at the oldest Latvian folk dance group in North America, Toronto's Diždancis, which just celebrated its 50th anniversary with a gala program of dance and song. Some 1000 individuals have been members, and since 1959 it has been led by the dynamic Zigurds Miezītis. At Song Festivals and other events, Diždancis has often fostered innovative dance arrangements.

Having wood beams similar to Latvian peasant houses, the 230 year old Usmas church with its rich baroque carvings and ceiling paintings was painstakingly moved to Riga's open air ethnographic museum in 1935. Ojārs Spārītis (Latvia) traces its history and the discovery of the identity of the woodcarver, Joachim Kreicfeld.

Voldemārs Avens (USA) describes the career of Rolands Kaņeps (USA), winner of the Latvian Cultural Fund's 1997 award for painting. This issue also features drawings by Māris Subačs (Latvia), a new face in JG.

Frank Gordon (Israel) surveys books in Latvian on the Old Testament; Joel Veinberg published two commentaries on the Old Testament in the sixties, and now supplies background material for two brilliant translations: Knuts Skujenieks Song of Songs (1993) and Uldis Bērziņš Job (1997). Juris Silenieks (USA) reviews Lidija Dombrovska's (Australia) short story collection with her own illustrations, and Albert Bel's (Latvia) The Black Sign, a novel about Soviet Latvia with science fiction overtones. Viktors Hausmanis' (Latvia) work on Latvian emigrē actors prompted Uldis Siliņš (Australia) to jot down personal recollections. Jānis Liepiņš (Latvia) lauds Eduards Kļaviņš (Latvia) study of Latvian portrait painting, 1880 -1916.

Biruta Sūrmane, Ingrīda Bulmane and Rolfs Ekmanis survey cultural highlights. For example, Ilmārs Blumbergs (Latvia) was invested as Latvia's Artist of the Year, while Vizma Belševica and Knuts Skujenieks (both from Latvia) won the Swedish Tomas Transtromer award for poetry, worth 100,00 Swedish kroner.

The frontispiece is by Laimonis Mieriņš (England) and the cover is by our Art Director, Ilmārs Rumpēters (USA).



Jaunā Gaita