Jaunā Gaita nr. 131, 1980. g. 5. numurs

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JG 131


With the previous issue, Jaunā Gaita completed its twenty-fifth year of regular publication. In this issue, we salute three international figures who have been active during this period and even longer. The French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, who died in Paris on 15 April 1980, is the subject of Jānis Ķēniņš' essay, "The High Priest of French Existentialism - Sartre." Anita Liepiņa's article "Jean-Paul Sartre as a Literary Man" complements Ķēniņš' with a discussion of the philosopher's novels, short stories and plays. Both authors emphasize Sartre's role as a defender of human liberty and critic of imperialist ventures in Hungary, Algeria, Czechoslovakia and Vietnam.

Lia Šmite contributes an essay on "Czeslaw Milosz and Ivar Ivask." Milosz is the 1980 Nobel laureate for Literature and winner of the 1978 Neustadt International Prize in Literature. Estonian poet and critic Dr. Ivar Ivask, Chairman of the Jury for the Neustadt International Prize for Literature, wrote in an editorial to the Spring 1980 of World Literature Today:

"From Stockholm to Norman, from Nobel to Neustadt; geographic distances separate them, varying lengths of tradition, differing degrees of publicity. And still the two prizes share the same fundamental concern for the highest literary quality within a framework of global responsibility."

That this is indeed so has been proven by several facts...

"However the concern with the selection of the Nobel Laureates did not start with me or with the foundation of the Neustadt Prize in 1969." Ivask told Jaunā Gaita. "The tradition of closely following the Nobel selections goes actually back to the founding editor of Books Abroad / World Literature Today, Roy Temple House, who published already in the summer 1932 issue of Books Abroad a symposium entitled "Prodding the Nobel Prize Committee". It has been a gradual development from just "prodding" to actually assisting one another in a spirit of mutual respect and appreciation."

In "A Decade of Juris Kronbergs: 'Talent is Responsibility,'" Baņuta Rubesa discusses the enfant terrible of Latvian poetry during the 1970s. Kronbergs, who writes in both Latvian and Swedish, has produced poems for adults and children, song lyrics, and translations from Latvian into Swedish and from other languages into Latvian. His techniques are often experimental; his political position is well to the Left; his perspective is international. All of these have led Latvian critics to misunderstand and attack him, but, Rubesa argues, he is an important writer who represents a Latvian consciousness comparable to that of Bob Dylan in the 1960s. Rubesa portrays him as a warm, humor-filled man, the inheritor of a Latvian tradition that runs deeper than references to folksongs and birches and the other trappings of a narrow and superficial nationalism.

Also in a retrospective vein is Nikolajs Bulmanis. Jr.'s appreciation of the work of the late Oskars Skušķis (1909-1978) in "Experience Shaped by Creative Will: Thoughts on Oskars Skušķis' Painting." A self-taught and unique talent, Skušķis was an opponent of photographic realism and empty, technical virtuosity. His work is a marriage of modern idiom with a Latvian heritage: his paintings unite the animate and inanimate worlds and endow the nonhuman with a human meaning. The human figure is frequently central in his art, and his focus is always on the individuality and uniqueness of his subject. The low status of the artist without academic affiliations in Latvian exile society only spurred him to greater creativity, and the guiding faith of his life is expressed in the words on his gravestone: "Art is eternal."

Andrievs Ezergailis continues his series "Thinking about Lešinskis" in this issue. In the fourth instalment he considers the aesthetics of socialist realism, arguing that both artistic and critical practice in presentday Soviet Latvia does not have much to do with this doctrine. He points out, however, that socialist realism was first proposed in Latvia long before the 1917 revolution.

In the Literary department in this issue we have poetry by Voldemārs Avens. Astrīde Ivaska, Rita Gāle, Jānis Gorsvāns, Inārs Brēdrichs, Juris Kronbergs, Francis Svilāns, Visvaldis Reimanis, Juris Mazutis, Olga Lisovska and Māris Čaklais.

Also in this section we have the first published stories by two young Latvian authors: Hēra Zaļinska's "Ladies' Waltz" and Zinta Aistara's "Rain and Married Life." Both are explorations of love and marriage, though they approach their themes from different perspectives and both show a high level of narrative mastery. As well, we have a story by artist Lidija Dombrovska, "News from Purvakalns," in which the painter's inspiration appears as a colourful, magic bird.

Of course, we have our usual features and departments in addition. Perhaps most significant among them is the announcement of the publication in 1980 by Liesma in Rīga of a collection of poetry, Maize no mājām (Bread from Home), by Latvian exile poet Velta Toma. Tālivaldis Ķiķauka greets this as an important sign that cultural contact with Soviet Latvia is bearing worthwhile fruit.

The cover is by Ilmārs Rumpēters.


Jānis Svilpis


Jaunā Gaita