Jaunā Gaita nr. 87, 1972

JG 87

The cover of JG 87 is by internationally exhibited painter Rūdolfs Kronbergs (Sweden). Kronbergs has received wide critical acclaim in such art capitals as Paris and London, especially during the last decade. However, although several Latvian art critics have also expressed favorable opinions, and he does not lack admirers among the Latvian public, his work has perhaps not been appreciated or understood to the extent that his international reputation should warrant. In an interview published in this issue, Kronbergs ventures an explanation for this: although he unequivocally considers himself a Latvian painter, his artistic home has always been Paris. (Since 1962, French critics have considered him a member of the Ecole de Paris). His career began in Paris during the 30's; he designed sets for theatre, opera, and film, then became Vlaminck's pupil while learning to master the old egg tempera technique in order to copy Renaissance paintings for the Louvre. Since that time, the influences on his art have continued to be heterogeneous (Kronbergs names painters from Rembrandt to Jackson Pollock). He has experimented with artistic materials from egg tempera and resin to acrylics and enamels, and recently has been investigating the light and color properties of rock crystals and minerals.

Kronbergs discusses his personal philosophy of art; speculates about Latvian art's present status and future development; analyzes the achievements of individual Latvian artists; and also voices his opinions on numerous social and political issues of Latvian as well as international relevance. One of his more fervent statements concerns the artist's need - indeed, right - to develop his aesthetic theories and practice his craft as he would choose, and not be persecuted or dictated to either by political powers or arbiters of taste. He condemns painting that deliberately panders to popular taste, and asserts that politics, revolutionary or otherwise, can only have a detrimental effect on art. Art can only be called "revolutionary" when it violates almost every existing creed, political or aesthetic; an artist's claim of "revolutionary political commitment" often merely provides an alibi for lack of talent. Kronbergs thus challenges some of the arguments of Gundaris Pone's essay on art and politics in JG 82. Laimonis Mieriņš (Leeds, England) contributes a brief essay on sculptor and ceramic artist Viktors Prīms (Yorkshire, England). His work also has gained wide popularity in the English art world, but is literally unknown to his fellow Latvians. And "mini-interviews" with Uldis Ģērmanis (Stockholm) and Gundars Pļavkalns (Australia) present their views on the fate of Latvian literature and belles-lettres in exile.

Latvian prose lost a talented and promising stylist when Dzintars Kiršteins died in 1970: He was only 48, and much of his work was still either uncompleted or unpublished. His writings fall into two startlingly different groups. His two published novels - The Cannons Are Silent (1966) and Carve Your Hearts Stone Memorials, Brothers (1969), met with mixed critical reception. They are conventionally written, realistic depictions of the post-war existence of invalided WW II veterans; the author's objectivity has been tempered by his intensely sympathetic involvement with his subject. However, his short stories, few among which have been published, are striking and innovative experiments. Plot becomes merely a sketchy background, or a tool used in the intricate probing of the human psyche and human relationships. The style, characterized by long, convoluted sentences, reflects the subtle, almost incomprehensible complexities of the subject matter. A typical story, "Fragments from a Letter", is printed in this issue. In it - past and present events, people and places, reality, dream, and illusion, juxtapose, melt into one another, and finally become indistinguishable. In Irēne Blūmfelde's story "Blue Vase and Mouse", the protagonist attempts to smash his past, symbolized by a vase; yet, its attractions draw him away from the socially acceptable but spiritually stultifying commitments of the present.

In the poetry section, Gundars Pļavkalns' "Ahenobarbus" juxtaposes in staggering array the innumerable manifestation of Man, that inexplicable creature halfway between god and beast; Lidija Dombrovska meditates an the solitude inherent in individual man, in external nature, in the universe; and Reinholds Millers probes the isolation and uniqueness of the artist.

In the current installment of his monograph The Commander from Zemgale, Uldis Ģērmanis describes the complex and difficult situation of the Latvian regiments of the Russian army in 1917, caused by conflicts between bolshevik and anti-bolshevik influences and aggravated by problems with discipline.

The many new books reviewed in this issue include: a first poetry collection by Lalita Muižniece; prose works by Tonija Krūka and Pēteris Aigars; historical studies by Edgars Andersons, the notable Estonian statesman August Rei, and the Soviet Latvian historian Jānis Krastiņš (Andrievs Ezergailis describes the latter's work as at best useless, at worst shockingly plagiarized); a translation of selected poems by the Johannes Bobrowsky (German); and a bibliography on the Swedish poet Erik Lindegren. Included are also essays on Latvian political theatre in Stockholm and modern Latvian literature courses offered by the department of Baltic philology at the University of Muenster, Germany. Finally, some controversy is implicit in marginalia on the puzzling critical premises of some vocal would-be poetry critics, and on the refusal or unwillingness of the Latvian press to write about the issues involved in certain recent events of controversial nature.


I. Š.-L.

Jaunā Gaita