Jaunā Gaita nr. 154, oktobris 1985

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JG 154

This issue continues our 1985 theme, the sesquicentennial of Krišjānis Barons, with an essay by linguist Valerija Baltiņa-Bērziņa: she writes about Barons' contribution to the development of the Latvian language during the last century as Latvia was growing out of feudalism.

Not too long before Barons started to work on the dainas, Charles Darwin in England published his Origin of species. Māris Bite, our science editor, describes how Darwin's theory of evolution, and Copernicus' cosmology before it, have changed Western man's view of himself as the centre of the universe and the "crown of creation". Evolutionary theory is more difficult for us to accept because, in Bite's view, it contradicts four tenets of Western thought that we carry in our "mental baggage"; hierarchism, the idea that every living thing in the world is part of a hierarchy from "lowest" to "highest", determinism, the idea that everything exists or happens for a reason, gradualism or "progress", and adaptationism, the idea that everything fits well into its surroundings. Bite skilfully shows how each of these tenets has been destroyed by modern evolutionary theory, and concludes that these are simply remnants of the old belief in an anthropocentric universe.

Visvaldis Reimanis' short story "Salvation" satirizes man's self-centredness, with Earth and the animals passing the death sentence on humanity for its refusal to accept its accountability for the destruction of the environment to the rest of the inhabitants of this planet. Other fiction in this issue is by Māra Gulēna (Canada), Daina Šķēle (Australia) and Lidija Dombrovska (Australia), while poetry contributions have come from Juris Kunnoss (Latvia), Marta Landmane (England), Eduards Salna (England), Nikolajs Kalniņš (USA), and Inārs Brēdrichs (Australia).

Laimonis Mieriņš gives a synopsis of the visual arts in Latvia for 1984, with the comment that this year was characterized more by drabness than by controversy and innovation, although a high level of creativity was shown by the large number of individual and group shows.

In a review article about Aleksandrs Čaks Rolfs Ekmanis points out interesting aspects in On the Way to Čaks, a collection of 8 essays on poet A. Čaks and his work, published in Riga in 1981.

Book reviews occupy a major portion of this issue. Nora Valtere reviews Andrejs Eglītis' latest book of poetry, and Mārtiņš Lasmanis reviews Indra Gubiņa's recent novel To the Eleventh Floor. Aivars Ruņģis' 1982 treatise on Latvian identity and its survival is reviewed by Jānis Gulbītis, who feels that the book is of great value and should be read by every Latvian. However, he does criticize Ruņģis for ignoring several crucial facts: that Latvia is not, and has never been, homeland to Latvians alone, that a strategy for coexistence with our powerful neighbours the Germans and the Russions is essential for our survival, and that the Latvian tendency to live apart from each other is our greatest barrier to maintaining a viable exile community. Kārlis Kangeris reviews Aldis L. Putniņš' 1981 book Latvians in Australia: Alienation and Assimilation, consisting of 5 studies by the author on the integration of Latvian emigrants into Australian and other pluralistic societies. Putniņš has developed a "multi-dimensional immigrant adjustment model" that postulates separation from the original culture and assimilation into the new society as independent processes, affected by individual personality and the characteristics of the former and present social environments.

This model takes into account the fact that most Latvians in exile are able to combine participation in two cultures by successfully integrating into the mainstream society, while at the same time retaining and developing their identification with the Latvian community. Valija Ruņģe has reviewed Jānis Klīdzējs' recent collection of short stories spanning the 40 years from 1944 to 1984. Ruņģe feels that Klīdzējs' reason for arranging the collection in chronological order is to give a portrait of Latvian life since the Second World War. Rasma Birzgale contributes a review of Viktors Hausmanis' erudite study of Rudolfs Blaumanis' dramaturgy. Hausmanis states that "the plays of Blaumanis, like the dainas, express the mentality of our nation", and his characters are like old friends, because they come from the same world as our folk-songs.

Andrievs Ezergailis contributes his thoughts on publisher Helmars Rudzītis' memoirs. Rudzītis began Grāmatu Draugs in Latvia in the 1930's as a publisher of popular-priced literature. After the war he started again in New York, publishing books and the newspaper LAIKS, which still has the largest readership of any exile publication. This may be due to Rudzītis' principle of objectivity and political neutrality (excluding, naturally, the Communist view), although Ezergailis feels that Rudzītis "neutrality" has always excluded the Social Democrats and that in avoiding controversy, LAIKS has stifled debate. As Ezergailis puts it, if a visitor from Saturn wished to find out what exile Latvians have been thinking, as opposed to what they have been doing, then the last place where they could find it would be the pages of LAIKS!

We also have contributions from Nikolajs Bulmanis, Tālis Ķiķauka and Osvalds Liepa who gives a personal list of young Latvian artists he feels are worth watching. The cover of this issue is by Ilgvars Šteins.


Ilze Valdmanis

Jaunā Gaita