Jaunā Gaita nr. 66, 1967

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JG 66

Our poetry section once again shows that although contemporary poetry is less restricted in matter and form than traditional poetry, fundamental themes, such as the beauty of human life, the passing of beauty, the meaning of time, the unevenhandedness of justice, the mockery of meaningless pain, the incommunicability of love, and the old continuing cries of loneliness, nostalgia, hope, exultation, and pride still lie at the heart of poetry. Olafs Stumbrs' verses have brightened our pages before and his „Confession" (JG 32) created a considerable sensation among the stolid burghers owing to its mention of sexual matters. Stumbrs resides in California; his book of poems, Etudes (Chicago, 1960), won the Zinaīda Lazda Award in 1961. Ojārs Vācietis is one of the most exciting poets on the Latvian literary scene. His volumes of verse, Breath (Riga, 1966) sold out immediately upon publication. Judging from some of his writings, the poet regards as personal enemies those who adhere to the officially approved pattern in art and life. Voldemārs Avens, a poet and painter, and Oļģerts Cakars make their second appearance in JG.

The Jaunsudrabiņš Memorial Award winning writer Margarita Kovaļevska has contributed a series of random feminine perceptions and reflections which reveal an unusual and personal aspect of her character. The picture of a hard-working and earnest craftsman, who made her real entry into the world of letters with the novels The Flower of Calamity (New York, 1962) and Cocks of Gauri (New York, 1963), is completed with two sketches for works projected but never finished. Reinis Zeibolts' highly literate and amusing narrative contains a succession of curious portraits. The author seems to be looking at an album of photographs; his memory shifts to and fro over the past as each photograph evokes a different scene or episode. The concluding installment of Imants Bite's perceptive essay „Matter, Thought, Suspicions" has some interesting reflections about the growing antagonism between „abstract" and „figurative" schools. Dr. Rolfs Ekmanis (of Arizona State University) offers a critical survey of the writings and activities of Latvian Communist writers in the USSR during World War II. Dr. Ansis L. Dārziņš (of San Francisco's American Academy of Asian Studies) knowledgeably considers the development of various institutions and socioeconomic trends in Latvia since the turn of the century. Lidija Švābe šummarizes new materials on Livonia, discovered at the State Archives of Sweden. These were left by Richard von der Hardt who described himself some 300 years ago as Librorum auctionator Regibus. Gunars Irbe's „Metamorphosis 3.9.67." has some arresting thoughts about the mores of Swedish life.

One of the leading Latvian novelists, Anšlavs Eglītis, always astonishes with his intellectual maturity and the richness of his comic invention. Much of the novel, Alas, It's not Home (New York, 1966) is in his best comic vein, so, in our book review section, argues Dr. Ojārs Krātiņš, a Guggenheim Fellow on leave from the University of Califomia at Berkeley. In spite of the book's predominantly comic theme, it is noticeable that Eglītis strikes a serious note; the problem of Latvian national identity in exile forms a wholly serious second level of the book. One of the most promising prose writers in Latvia is Zigmunds Skujiņš. The same reviewer regrets that a writer of such fine narrative talent must stoop to the level of ordinary propaganda and create a „firstrate kitsch product" - his latest novel Silvery Clouds (Riga, 1966). One of the most interesting novels to appear in Riga in recent years is Devil's Bone Twins (Riga, 1966), by Egons Līvs, whom our frequent contributor Gunārs Grava acknowledges as a particularly gifted prose writer. Because of its scrupulous objectivity in describing the main character „in his veins flows real blood soaked in sea salt") and situations which are scarcely in accord with the canons of socialist realism, the novel, compared with most Soviet prose writing with its flabby sentimentality, its windiness, and moral equivocation, is like an ice-cold draught of spring water after a lifetime of tepid, flat lemonade. Dr. Paulis Birznieks (of Georgetown University) appraises Omens: Poetry and Prose (New York,1966), by Jānis Klāvsons whose works (collected after his tragic death) show us the author in a variety of postures, but mainly as a „son of the soil" whose joy in rural culture patterns tums to sadness and anger when he writes about the tools and artificial surroundings of modern man. Raimonds Staprāns (an artist as well as a writer on the arts), reviewing two books on Latvian painters, Ansis Artums, (Riga, 1966), by Taira Haļāpina, and Jūlijs Jēgers and Latvian Art (Stockholm, 1966), by Juris Soikans, suggests that both belong to the company of followers of sterile aesthetic formulas and dogmatic academies. Agnis Balodis finds that the title of Die Russifizierung in den baltischen Laendern (Muenchen, 1964), by M.Bukšs, is misleading, because this otherwise excellent study examines in depth only the effect of Tsarist cultural policies in East Latvia, and not the entire Baltic area. Although Moscow in the sixties still seems determined to assimilate the Baltic peoples into Soviet life with little regard for the local languages, customs, and traditions, little or nothing is said about events since 1940.

The Echoes section discusses two one-man shows in the autumn of 1967, Voldemārs Balutis' sculpture exhibit at Munich's famed Schumacher gallery and Laimonis Mieriņš' paintings at Toronto's Bergdon gallery. Connoisseurs of intellectual tidbits will take pleasure in our new section Marginalia. This issue's cover is by Ilmārs Rumpēters, our Art Director.

Jaunā Gaita