Jaunā Gaita nr. 152, maijs 1985

JG 152

In this issue, Arturs Baumanis presents some aspects of Barons' life before he started to work on the dainas, namely the period from 1856, when he began studies at Dorpat University and became involved with the beginnings of the Latvian "awakening", through the years that Barons edited and expedited the St. Petersburg Latvian newspaper (Pēterburgas Avīzes), to 1865, when the newspaper was closed. This was largely due to pressure from the Baltic German landowners and the German-controlled Lutheran church, who were opposed to the newspaper's philosophy that being Latvian was not synonymous with being an indentured peasant, that a free and educated Latvian was not a contradiction in terms, that Latvians had the same rights of access to knowledge and opportunity as the rest of humanity. More articles about Barons and Latvian folklore will follow in the next issues of Jaunā Gaita.

Baiba Šmita-Kalēja has contributed an article on Latvian folk-dances, the "orphan" of Latvian folklore: only 52 dances have been completely described, while some 30 more have been reconstructed from incomplete descriptions in folklore archives. Outside Latvia, folkdancing has become a popular group activity for young people, and the mass folk-dance performances at Latvian song festivals have at least as many performers as the choral concerts. The demand for a larger repertoire has resulted in a new genre: choreography using only elements of the traditional dances. In Latvia, the same problem, that is, the limited repertoire of authentic dances and their unsuitability for stage presentation (being primarily intended for participation rather than mere watching) led to a style of "folkdance" that owed more to ballet and the music-hall than to folklore. In recent years, however, folklore ensembles in Latvia have revived the original dances, striving to perform them as authentically as possible.

Two articles in this issue deal with issues that, although originating during the Second World War, are still unresolved. Distinguished linguist Velta Rūķe-Draviņa, under the somewhat provocative title "Why does the American Latvian Association publish Latvian dictionaries of the Hitler and Stalin occupations?", argues that the approved Latvian orthography used in exile publications was not, as is commonly thought, the "official" orthography of pre-war Latvia, but was first laid down in standard form in 1942, when Latvia was under German occupation. She makes the further point that there has been no single "official" orthography in Latvia since the war either, and that many changes have been made at various times since 1945, not because of political pressure, but because the language itself has been changing, as all living languages do. Contributing editor Andrievs Ezergailis has dared to broach an almost "taboo" subject among exile Latvians: the role of Latvians in the virtual extermination of Latvian Jews during the German occupation of the Second World War. Ezergailis points out that Latvians need not feel offended as a group when a Latvian is being investigated by the OSI for war crimes, and that the Soviet Union's efforts to submit "evidence" have been mostly unsuccessful in achieving deportation orders.

A book widely discussed last year was, of course, George Orwell's "1984", and most commentators agreed that Orwell's predictions have not, for the most part, been borne out. In this issue Juris Mazutis takes the opposing viewpoint and argues that even in the West, much of what Orwell anticipated has materialized, and specifically, that American commercial television is our equivalent of Orwell's "Big Brother".

While Mazutis is pessimistic about the effects of television, he is pleased that Latvian rock music is improving and becoming more professional, in a review of the New York-based group "Akacis" latest record, "Akacis 1984". Every song on the record was written by members of the group, and Mazutis praises their ability to combine the Latvian text with the rock idiom, their musicianship, and their perseverance in producing records of this calibre for such a limited audience.

Nikolajs Bulmanis, in his regular column, compares the achievements of Latvian artists living in Canada with those of Latvian artists residing in the USA: in the early sixties a whole group of young Latvian artists in Canada held great promise, that has largely not been fulfilled, while in the United States, in a much more competitive environment, several Latvian artists have made respected names for themselves in the professional art world. In a separate article, Bulmanis outlines the history of the artists' group "Latvis" in Canada, and its predecessor, "the Latvian artists' group of Toronto", which was founded in 1952. The culmination of "Latvis"' activity appears to have been its group exhibition, in 1962, in a commercial Toronto gallery, that attracted both the Latvian and Canadian public, and that was well-received by Canadian critics. Since then, "Latvis" has not shown as much ambition, but has limited itself to its annual group show for the Toronto Latvian community.

Book reviews occupy a larger than usual place in this issue. Visvaldis Reimanis and Inārs Brēdrichs both review Astrīde Ivaska's 1982 volume of poetry, Gaisma ievainoja (Light Wounded). Both critics hold Ivaska's poetry in high esteem, and Reimanis suggests that it should be translated. Andrievs Ezergailis reviews a book by the distinguished historian Dr. Edgars Andersons. Ofēlija Sproģere has sent a review of The Early Renaissance (Liesma, Rīga, 1981), containing V. Bisenieks' translation of Dante's Vita nuova and L. Briedis' translation of Petrarca's Il canzoniere, while Gundars Pļavkalns has reviewed Anšlavs Eglītis' prose anthology My Bank (Grāmatu Draugs, New York, 1982).

Roberts Mūks is interviewed by Juris Zommers in this issue. Mūks shows the same unconventionality, intelligence and unsentimentality in his answers as in his poetry, last seen in JG 145. Mūks distrusts total rationality as much as sentimentality: he argues that the current faith in science and technology will come to a dead end philosophically because of its inability to observe deeper metaphysical meaning.

The literary section begins with a cycle of poems expressing despair and loneliness by Ārija Elksne who died recently in Rīga. Other poems are by Aina Zemdega, Visvaldis Reimanis, Jānis Gorsvāns, and Alma Bēne. Monika Zariņa, Hēra Zaļinska, and Olģerts Rozītis have contributed prose works to this issue. Our late theatre editor, Ņina Luce, is remembered by Aleksandrs Zariņš, while Karmena Kurzemniece has dedicated a poem to Luce's memory.

Last winter in Sarajevo, a Soviet team won the bronze medal in the two-man bobsled event. One of the athletes on that team, Zintis Ekmanis, and its coach, Rolands Upatnieks, are Latvians. Mairita Solima describes how these men developed a world-class bobsled program in the remarkably short time of four years (the Soviet Union did not have a bobsled program before 1980) and enthusiastically predicts that a gold medal will be won by at least one of Upatnieks' teams at Calgary in 1988.

Imants Sakss, our music editor, reviews a collection of articles, memoirs and letters about composer Jānis Zālītis, which was published in Rīga last year on the occasion of the centenary of Zālītis' birth. Two cartoons of Māris Bišofs appear on pages 28 and 30. The frontispiece is by Arnolds Treibergs. The cover of this issue is by Laimonis Mieriņš.


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