Jaunā Gaita nr. 67, 1968

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JG 67

JG 67 hopes to give its readers an insight into the cultural life of Latvia after 22 years of Soviet occupation. The selection of poetry presented with this aim in mind is the most comprehensive ever attempted by an exile Latvian publication. About 40 poets born after 1920 are active in Latvia. Of this number 14 have been selected and are represented with 2 - 6 poems each. They are, in chronological order: Bruno Saulītis, Daina Avotiņa, Ārija Elksne, Olga Lisovska, Vizma Belševica, Ojārs Vācietis, Imants Ziedonis, Viktors Līvzemnieks, Vitauts Ļūdēns, Imants Auziņš, Jānis Sirmbārdis, Māris Čaklais, Velta Kaltiņa, and Laima Līvena. Responsible for the selection is Astrīde Ivaska, herself author of 2 volumes of poetry as well as essays and translations. She is married to the Estonian poet and critic Ivar Ivask, editor of the international quarterly Books Abroad.

Besides poetry, literary criticism and reviews of books published in Latvia are included (not for the first time). Vizma Belševica (b. 1931), the foremost woman poet there as well as author of perceptive essays and translations, is represented with an essay „Subjective Thoughts on Objective Phenomena". She argues wittily and with deep conviction against the views held by some Soviet critics that literature is a means toward narrowly utilitarian ends. She points up the low esteem for the expression of intimate personal feeling in literature. She believes that there exists a direct connection between this and the social manifestations of emotional immaturity, such as juvenile delinquency. A real culture of sensibility will not be achieved, she says, without exposure to the kind of literature that all too often is considered overconcerned with the author's private emotional involvements, and thus is deemed petty and socially invalid. While remaining within the framework of Social Realism by postulating art for education's sake, she is also implying the fundamental need for freer creative expression.

Dr. Rolfs Ekmanis (of Arizona State University) continues his well documented and detailed account of the writing and the activities of Latvian Communist writers in the U.S.S.R. during WW II. He shows the dependent and humiliating position of literary apprenticeship that these writers found themselves in during the first post-war years. Latvian language publications in the Soviet Union, which had been stopped entirely after the purges of 1937/38, resumed under strictest control. The literary production of the war years was rejected even by Latvian Communist leaders themselves as devoid of any but propaganda value. Its main aim had been to keep alive the hatred against the Germans. Even folklore and 19th and 20th c. literary figures were utilized for this purpose. The subject matter was overwhelmingly stereotype. Yet an unpredictable element turns up in the work of these writers - a longing for and idealization of their native land at the expense of the larger „Motherland", Soviet Russia.

In a LETTER TO THE EDITORS, Jānis Zībiņš (Toronto) proposes a fresh solution to an old problem-the financial difficulties of exile organizations. He envisages selfsupporting, financially secure organizations through ownership of stock in growing Canadian and U.S. business corporations.

Jānis Klīdzējs (b. 1914), a psychologist by training, is an able and productive prose writer. His collection of short stories, Life, My Life (Minneapolis, 1967), is under review by Dr. Juris Silenieks (of Carnegie-Mellon University). In weighing the benefit of the author's psychological control of his figures against their life-likeness, the reviewer finds the balance disturbed at times. In writing about the short stories People and the Soil (Lincoln, Nebr., 1967) by Klīdzējs's contemporary Arnolds Rasa (b. 1907), Dr. Silenieks concludes that the author succeeds only in part in bringing his protagonists to life.

The panorama of literary life in Soviet Latvia is complemented by reviews of works in translation from the neighboring Baltic countries. Gunārs Grava presents 2 Lithuanian novels, J.Marcinkevičius's (b. 1930) The Pinetree That Laughed (Riga, 1964) and I. Meras's (b. 1934) Only the Moment is Undecided (Riga, 1966). The reviewer concludes that both works are interesting achievements and that Meras's novel is artistically superior to recent Soviet Latvian works. Substituting poetry for prose, the same can be said about the work of the Estonian poet Paul-Eerik Rummo (b. 1942). Gunars Irbe reviews very favorably a selection of his poetry in Laimonis Kamara's Latvian translation, Soon They will Begin Their Journey, (Riga, 1967). Rudīte Emir (San Francisco) scrutinizes 3 books for children. Stories of the Sunny Years (Riga, 1966) is a comprehensive anthology, reaching from folk tales to the present. The reviewer finds that the desire to instill early in life the ideas of Communism has fostered an excellent understanding of the child's psyche. Apart from their heavy-handed dogmatism, the stories display a high level of competence. A fine addition to children's literature and to the small number of Latvian books available in English translation is Tit for Tat and Other Latvian Folk Tales (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1967). The tone and approach of the translator, Mae Durham, is psychologically right, while the illustrations by Harriet Pincus suffer from unevenness. A third volume is Elvīra Leja's poetry Mother's Woolen Shawl (Shippenville, Pa., 1967), a considerable achievement in the field of verses for children.

The historian Uldis Ģērmanis (Stockholm) contributes an appraisal of Vilis Biļķins's Curonia and the Battles of the Curonians (Lincoln, Nebr., 1967). The author traces the Viking-like exploits of the Curonians during the period 852-1267 A.D. through Medieval documents and places them in a wider historic perspective.

In the section ECHOES, Laimonis Mieriņš has words of high praise for the noted translator Ruth Speirs (London), whose translations of contemporary Latvian poetry were broadcast on the BBC's Third Programme on Nov. 20, 1967.

Our cover design is by Laimonis Mieriņš.

Jaunā Gaita