Jaunā Gaita nr. 220, marts 2000

JG 220

The highlight of this issue is a new play by Raimonds Staprāns, Anšlavs and Veronika, about the pre-eminent Latvian literary couple of the second half of the twentieth century, Anšlavs Eglītis and Veronika Janelsiņa. Eglītis was an immensely popular novelist, playwright and journalist. Janelsiņa was a highly-regarded painter but started writing novels later in life and achieved great success in the literary field as well. Staprāns' play describes their life together as they arrived in the USA and soon moved to California. The incidents and characterizations in the play are based partly on Janelsiņa's autobiographical writings and partly on Staprāns' own acquaintance with the couple, since they lived for a time with Staprāns' parents in Oregon. The second part of the play will be published in the next issue.

A second highlight of this issue is the work of Voldemārs Avens. Avens is not only a contributing editor of Jaunā Gaita, but also a well-known poet and painter. Avens has created both the front cover and the frontispiece to this issue, and his poetry is featured in the poetry section. Also, Auens' daughter lndra has written an appreciation of her father's poetry. The poetry section features recent work by Mirdza Čuibe, Jānis Viesiens, and long-time contributor Andrejs Irbe.

Inta Ezergailis, whose monograph Nostalgia and Beyond was discussed in the previous issue, applies her erudition and understanding in a lengthy review of Indra Gubiņa's latest volume of poetry, A Strange Game (Toronto, 1999). Some of the themes of the book are memory, survival and the difficulties of the emigre torn between her newly-sovereign, but drastically-changed, homeland, and the place that was her home for half a century but never accepted as a real home: `Living in foreign lands, we / wrapped our souls in Latvian shawls ... now the soul stands naked in a forest of memories'. We also have reviews of a popular but heavily criticized historical novel about Kurzeme at the time of the Viking invasion, the first volume of a new history of Latvian literature and a new edition of a cycle of poems about the Bermontiāde by Uldis Bērziņš.

A concert in honour of the late composer Arnolds Šturms was held in New York City last year. Composer Dace Aperāne describes the concert and Šturms' music for us.

In the previous issue we noted the death of poet Velta Toma in the fall of 1999. Now we have the eulogy prepared by contributing editor Anita Liepiņa, who was a personal friend of Toma's, for a memorial evening held in Toronto shortly after Toma died. Liepiņa emphasizes three sources of strength in Toma's poetry: her virtuosity in poetic form, her richness of language, particularly the vocabulary of her native Sēlija in south-central Latvia, and her eventful, often tragic, life, which inspired her poetry. Kārlis Zvejnieks also contributes some of his reminiscences of Velta Toma.

Contributing editor Mārtiņš Lasmanis discusses the problems faced by poets in Latvia. Poetry is no longer needed as a medium of political expression and has to be its own raison d'etre. Poets have to cope with the new reality, which unfortunately includes a sharp decline in public interest in poetry. Another aspect of the new reality is that poets must focus on words as never before: can words and their association's measure up to poets' need for expressivity? Lasmanis briefly examines this aspect in recent work by Mara Zālīte and Amanda Aizpuriete.

Māris Čaklais, one of Latvia's best-known poets, contributes three short tales, in which he describes the true meaning of Easter, Midsummer Night and Christmas. In a complete contrast, a young writer simply named InESe describes a house fly's attraction to a human and the tragic consequences of this attraction in the story "Masha and Baldy".

Boris Mangolds discusses the transition from analog to digital photography and the computer as artists' tool, as well as the blurring of the distinction between art photography and snapshots. Nikolajs Bulmanis describes the Latvian pavilion at last year's Venice Biennale and how the artists chosen to represent Latvia (Inta Ruka, Anita Zabilevksa and Ojārs Pētersons) fit in with the declared goal of the Biennale to emphasize the work of youth, Chinese artists, and women. Laimons Eglītis discusses the latest achievements of painter Vija Celmiņa and the selection of eight of her works for the exhibition "Regarding Beauty - A View of the Late Twentieth Century" at the Hirschhorn Museum in Washington D.C.

Juris Žagariņš has collected the highlights of a discussion in the SVEIKS Internet forum on the merits of Latvians abroad sending `care packages' to Latvia versus encouraging Latvian self-reliance to achieve economic independence.

Franks Gordons discusses some of the flaws of a book about Max Shatz-Anin, a blind Jewish philosopher, lawyer and writer who worked in the communist underground in Riga before World War II and became a newspaper editor after the Russians occupied Latvia in 1940. He was arrested by Stalin in 1953 and stayed in prison for several months, but apparently kept his faith in the Soviet system until he died in 1975.

Ilze Valdmanis

Jaunā Gaita