Jaunā Gaita nr. 138/139, 1982. g. 2./3. numurs

< JG 137   JG 141 >

JG 138/139

This issue is a special double number in two sections, the first containing our usual articles and features, while the second is devoted to humour and satire.

The lead article, "Youth and Society: Generational Change and the Exile Latvian Situation" by Professor Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga, analyzes the dwindling participation in Latvian society by young exile Latvians. Ideally, a process of double socialization would make them comfortable in both Latvian culture and the larger context - North American, Australian, German, Swedish, etc. - in which they find themselves. To be successful, this process requires that they have adult models who are proud of their Latvian heritage and that their Latvian experience be enjoyable and valuable for personal development. As the statistics show, these requirements are not being met, and exile Latvians are slowly but steadily being assimilated.

Prof. Vīķe-Freiberga proposes three reasons for this. She argues that Latvians suffer from feelings of ethnic inferiority, the result of long domination by larger and more powerful groups, first as serfs, then as a minority among Russians and Germans. Our brief independence did not eliminate the problem, and it has been magnified in exile, for we are again a tiny minority in an alien culture. As well, the normal "generation gap" has been widened in Latvian society by the older generation's insistence on authoritarian orthodoxies, an attitude, inherited from czarist times, that conflicts with the liberal-democratic ideals absorbed by the young from their non-Latvian environment. Finally, exile society is fragmented into several dogmatic and mutually hostile camps, and the young see that other cultures retain a democratic unity despite differences in ideas. We can, Prof. Vīķe-Freiberga suggests, learn from other minorities, especially the Jewish, who have remained cohesive by emphasizing mutual help over hostility. She concludes that the young can be convinced to value their Latvian heritage not by being taught to hate but by being taught to love and respect themselves and their fellow Latvians.

In "Between a Rock and a Hard Place: Latvian Drama Today," Professor Juris Silenieks finds theatre in exile and in Soviet Latvia searching for an appropriate modus vivendi between two difficult options. On the one hand are the demands of ideological responsibility, and on the other, those of personal artistic vision. The result is a paucity of great drama, though there is no shortage of plays. Prof. Silenieks surveys various attempts to solve this problem. Gunārs Priede, Secretary of the Writers' Union, is one of a small number of Soviet Latvian playwrights who has produced good work in these circumstances. In exile, Aivars Ruņģis, Valters Nollendorfs, Spodris Klauverts, and Anšlavs Eglītis have refused to be mere entertainers or mere ideologues and have strived in different ways to make significant drama out of the lives we lead.

Maija Šlesere contributes "Enigmatic Fantasies: Talking about Dzintars Mežulis and his Works," an interview with an imaginative young sculptor. Mežulis describes himself as a symbolist rather than a surrealist, and he belongs to a literary and artistic tradition that also includes Bosch, Goya, Felicien Rops, Dali, Kafka, and Borges. To this he has added other influences acquired during his extensive travels. The result is a unique and individualistic series of creations in clay. His works are now attracting considerable attention; he lectures on his art and it is being discussed in books and magazine articles. Koka kaijas (Wooden Gulls), an illustrated book on which he collaborated with poet Imants Barušs, will soon be published in English translation. Šlesere concludes that if he had lived in the Middle Ages, he would have been called a magician.

Ņina Luce discusses "Problems of Modern Theatre." She responds to Professor Māris Ubāns' account of his experiences directing North American musicals by saying that Latvian dramatic ensembles have nothing in common with American commercial theatre. She takes issue with director Juris Rozītis over his attitude toward Latvian theatre, and regards his farce, Tabakas kaitīgums (The Harmfulness of Tobacco), as regressive. Luce argues that significant drama is necessarily art, and that it has a special role in maintaining Latvian cultural identity in exile.

This issue also offers most of our regular features. Nikolajs Bulmanis comments on recent attempts to sell Soviet, including Latvian, art in the West; on various recent or upcoming exhibitions, especially last December's showing of 257 new artists in Rīga; and on recent Latvian arts journalism. Juris Mazutis rejects ideologically determined guidelines for the development of exile Latvian culture, supporting instead a free, democratic, and ideologically diverse culture. Imants Sakss draws our attention to several significant anniversaries, as well as to recent works, particularly Imants Kalniņš' new opera, Iphiqenia in Aulis, and several new books.

The literary section in this issue consists entirely of poems; the prose will appear again in our next issue. The contributors are Gundars Pļavkalns (Australia), Astrīde Ivaska (USA), Aina Kraujiete (USA), Uldis Grasis (W. Germany), and Jānis Galviņš (Soviet Latvia).

The second section of this double issue is too full of good things to comment on in detail. JG editor Tālivaldis Ķiķauka has put together a remarkable issue in which our best-known humorous and satirical authors are represented. As well, he has included work by our finest cartoonists and caricaturists, such as Ed. Keišs, Gvīdo Augusts, Imants Zilberts, and Māris Bišofs.

The latter deserves special mention. Born in Rīga in 1939, he studied at the Latvian State Art Academy and illustrated books in Moscow before emigrating to Israel in 1972. He now divides his time between Paris and Israel and has exhibited his work in many places in North America, Europe, and Israel. His cartoons appear in many magazines around the world.

The cover is by Voldemārs Avens.


Jānis Svilpis


Jaunā Gaita