Jaunā Gaita nr. 236, marts 2004

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JG 236

Jānis Baltvilks (1944-2003) was not only an outstanding poet but also one of the finest Latvian authors of children's literature, who communicated through his work a deep love of the natural environment. Baltvilks died last October after being hit by a car. Our poetry section leads off with some of Baltvilks' poems, which were selected by Rita Laima Bērziņa, a journalist, translator and book illustrator. Bērziņa also contributes a piece about Baltvilks: her own reminiscences, those of some of his friends, as well as memories from his two children. Rita Gāle, who has lived in New York City for many years, contributes a poem about the destruction of the World Trade Center on 9/11 (2001). The short story "Laimīgā zeme" (The Place of Happiness) is by Laima Kalniņa.

Māris Čaklais (1940-2003), one of Latvia's foremost poets, also an essayist and an editor, died last December of cancer. We reprint two of his essays, which mark the end of the Soviet regime (and the brutal attempt to renew it by the collapsing empire in August of 1991) and the beginning of Latvia's renewed sovereignty. Our editor Rolfs Ekmanis recalls his encounters with Māris Čaklais.

Poet and editor, Jānis Elsbergs, argues that Latvian literature in English translation is still virtually unknown in literary circles in English-speaking countries, although this is not the case, for example, in Sweden and Germany, where fine translations of prose and poetry have helped to make many Latvian authors well-known (e.g., Vizma Belševica, Amanda Aizpuriete, Knuts Skujenieks et al).

Historian Jānis Krēsliņš analyzes Latvijas vēsture, 1180-1290: Krustakari (History of Latvia, 11801290: Crusades), written by Professor Indriķis Šterns, who specializes in medieval European history. It is the last book in the definitive series of twelve massive volumes on Latvian history.

Arturs Neparts, a contributor to this journal since its earliest days (almost 50 years ago!), sends a rebuttal to the historian Andrievs Ezergailis' article on the Nazi occupation of Latvia (JG228). Neparts relies on personal experiences, in addition to documentary sources from this period (1941-1945), to support his arguments.

Professor Alfreds Tauriņš shares the diary he kept during his flight from Latvia to Germany as a refugee in 1944/1945. The diary's second instalment covers the Anglo-American firebombing of Dresden (February 13/14,1945), where he was employed at the time.

Laimonis Mieriņš contributes a review of two recent art exhibitions in Britain, by the controversial Damien Hirst and by the masterly abstract painter Bridget Riley. Ingrīda Bulmanis describes the achievements of award-winning organist Iveta Apkalna.

Our regular gleaning of recent discussions on the Internet addresses Latvia joining the European Union and the effect this may or may not have on Latvia's sovereignty.

In the book review section, Inta Ezergaile analyzes Lolita Gulbe's recent poetry collection. Astra Roze reviews a novel by Laima Muktupāvela that explores the boundary between the real and the mystical. Roze also reviews a new collection by the prolific short story writer Zigmunds Skujiņš. Contributing editor Juris Silenieks discusses a study of the playwright and poet, Māra Zālīte, by her fellow writer Nora Ikstena. A collection of articles, published by the Latvian Association of Anthropologists, is reviewed by Dzidra Purmale. Anthropologist Aija Veldre Beldavs reviews the Fall 2003 issue of The Journal of Baltic Studies, which consists of articles on the status of women in the Baltic States. Finally, Juris Neimanis describes a collection of essays by the economist Dr. Nikolajs Balabkins.

The painting on p. 24 is by Kazimirs Laurs, a native of Latvia who lives in Santa Monica, California. Recently, he has had several solo exhibitions in Latvia. An art photograph by Juris Ubāns appears on p. 45, and a sculpture by Andrs Ziediņš is on p. 46. The cover is by the late Vitauts Sīmanis (1928-2003), a frequent contributor to Jauna Gaita, who is remembered in a piece by Viestarts Aistars as a talented and vital participant in the cultural life of Latvians in exile, in Germany, and in the United States.

Ilze Valdmanis

Jaunā Gaita