Jaunā Gaita nr. 111, 1976

JG 111

Poetry is the most difficult of all genres to translate, and probably only other poets should ever make the attempt. Certainly translating Rilke is an awesome, if not seemingly impossible undertaking--as a glance at some of the results, the popular English translations of C.F. MacIntyre, for example, will prove. However, Gunars Saliņš' Rilke translations in this issue (including 7 of the Sonnets to Orpheus) are nothing short of superb. One need only place them beside the originals to realize how perfectly Saliņš has recreated in Latvian the complexity and beauty of Rilke's poetry, down to slight nuances of rhythm and rhyme. It is also interesting to compare Jānis Krēsliņš' and Igors Jakaitis' translations of the first section of T.S. Eliot's „East Coker". It deals with the element of earth and its reflection in man's nature; man is part of the natural processes, of the eternal cycle of birth, maturity, decay, death - and, with him, all his works - his houses, political ideas, and social structures. „In my beginning is my end." Both translators are faithful to Eliot. However, Jakaitis is more idiomatically „Latvian," and his translation might appeal more to Latvian readers unfamiliar with Eliot in English. Krēsliņš is probably better versed in Eliot's work as a whole--and, like Eliot, he is interested in historical and scholarly studies. His language is more formal--and better reflects Eliot's own formal English. Also, Eliot has included in his poem some references to Sir Thomas Elyot's The Boke named the Governour (1531) in 16th century English; Jakaitis translates them into modern Latvian, but Krēsliņš has found corresponding expressions from Enchiridion (Riga, 1615) in archaic Latvian. However, why is that delightful line, „In daunsinge, siģnifying matrimonie" left in modern Latvian and -- worse -- attached to the preceding line? Krēsliņš obviously feels a deep affinity with Eliot; one would like to see him complete „East Coker" -- indeed, translate all of Four Quartets.

Valdis Krāslavietis' poem „Guess who they were" evokes, with biting irony, intolerance through the ages -- religious and philosophical intolerance, national intolerance, intolerance of any and all nonconformists. The basic statement apparently refers to the burning of a Latvian pagan by German crusaders, but the connotations are much more contemporary and far-reaching. Guna Ikona's poems in this issue have a melancholy, philosophical orientation; clusters of cosmic and nature-based images swirl around the lonely figure of man, alone, lost, and isolated in the universe. Voldemars Avens' poems have a pictorial quality; but whether evoking a surrealistically barren theatre, or Duchamp's „Nude descending a Staircase," he also conveys a sense of desolation, of man lost and terrified before the unknown.

Inārs Brēdrichs' calm, reflective images and musings provide welcome relief, while Ārija Elksne (most recent national prize winner for poetry in Latvia:) attempts to return to nature as a source of strength and to traditional techniques of classic Latvian poetry for inspiration.

Arturs Veisbergs short story, „The Double," explores the fascinating theme of the Doppelganger; but, instead of the more traditional approach, which views the problem as one of split personality, Veisbergs gives it a parapsychological twist. Henrijs Moors' „The Turtle" deals with a similar theme from the opposite perspective. The protagonist actually lives a double life -- as the husband of a rich, beautiful, adoring socialite and as the lover of a gentle, unassuming woman who shares his memories and national origins. In his wife's lavish house he is haunted by thoughts of losing his past and his identity; in the other woman's booklined rooms, tormented by guilt feelings, while her pet turtle seems to pursue him like his own conscience. While Veisbergs' protagonist flees in terror from his „double" and the possibility of becoming two people, Moors' hero undertakes elaborate yoga exercises in trying to attain the splitting of his person into 2 separate selves -- which, presumably, could cope with his separate lives.

Edīte Zuzena concludes her exhaustive study of the long poems of Aleksandrs Čaks, She briefly reviews some of the possible ways of interpreting his work -- especially, looking for political references between the lines -- but, while recognizing their value, rejects them in favor of a purely humanistic approach. To her, Čaks is the seeker of beauty and an eternity of endless mirrors, to whose world there is neither beginning, nor end, nor boundary.

Modris Zeberiņš contributes two pieces - the conclusion of his essay on Andrievs Ezergailis' The 1917 Revolution in Latvia and „My Little Devil's Song Festival Notes." Zeberiņš is always witty and entertaining, but he can be exasperating to anyone who looks for order and restraint in writing, or wishes that an author would „stick to the point." His essay on Ezergailis' book is more straight-forward; however, rather than a critique of Ezergailis' achievement as a historian, it is an expression of Zeberiņš' feelings about the significance of the complex and confusing events of that time, and what a book about them should convey.

The cover is by Ilmārs Rumpēters.


Ilze Šedrika-Levis

Jaunā Gaita