Jaunā Gaita nr. 156, februāris 1986

JG 156

This issue begins with Irina Ozoliņa's fine review article on the image of the sun and the "tree of the sun" in Latvian folklore and literature. The poetry section contains work by Pēteris Cedriņš, a young poet living in Chicago and publishing in Jaunā Gaita for the first time, as well as work by Roberts Mūks, who recently won the Zinaīda Lazda Award for his 1985 poetry volume "The Crocodile and Me", Visvaldis Reimanis, Astrīda Stahnke, and Aivars Neibarts. Regīna Ezera, one of the finest living Latvian prose writers, is represented in this issue with three brief but intensely descriptive character sketches.

One of the dominant themes of this issue is Latvian theatre. Viktors Hausmanis, the eminent drama critic, sends an article from Rīga on a number of recently-produced plays: Harijs Gulbis' "not especially playful comedy" "Olivers", Gunārs Priede's play "Centrifuge", which takes place during the time of the German occupation of Latvia during the Second World War, Pauls Putniņš' ironic "By the flowers - where the family can assemble", and Pēteris Pētersons' "The Meteor". The plot of Pētersons' play is about a doctor who writes plays in his spare time and eventually hands his plays over to a somewhat dubious impresario to be produced. The play actually appears to be a satire on the pretensions of artists and of people who wish to have some connection with the arts - "who love empty chatter, and hide their lack of insight behind sophisticated conversation".

Aina Vāvere comments on the critical acclaim that has followed Māra Zālīte's play "Māra's Room is Full", and says that the play contains material for critics to analyze from all theoretical perspectives for years to come. The Latvian school of criticism has tended to "beatify" works of high symbolic-mythic content, such as those of Rainis, giving less value to works that don't fit this prescription. The danger in this is that while Māra Zālīte's play earns acclaim from these critics, they ignore other aspects of her work, as well as give inadequate attention to valuable works of other genres.

I. Krauja sends an enthusiastic report on the dramatized version of the brothers Kaudzīte's classic novel "The Time of the Surveyors", produced outdoors last August in the venue of the novel itself. The main actors were professionals from the "Drāma" theatre of Rīga, but local people filled the minor roles, provided props (including farm animals), and prepared meals for the audiences of several thousand.

In exile Latvian theatre, a high point of the past year was the first production of Uldis Siliņš' new play "Even Stones Weep" by the Latvian Theatre of Sydney, Australia. The play takes place during the German occupation of Latvia in 1942, and the action of the play concerns a family whose daughter is killed because her father refuses to shelter her from German orders to execute the patients of mental hospitals. (The rationale behind this was that soldiers needed the resources "wasted" on indigents such as the mentally ill, now that the war was going into a "decisive" phase.)

This and other aspects of the German occupation of Latvia are discussed by two of our authors in this issue. Edvīns Pārups begins a series on his experiences in the little-known Latvian resistance movement. Andrievs Ezergailis discusses Kārlis Siljakovs' second volume of memoirs, which covers the period of the German occupation and his involvement in it as the prefect of the Liepāja police. One of the subjects Ezergailis focuses on is Latvian disenchantment with the Ulmanis regime, which caused many Latvians, especially socialists, to become Communist sympathizers.

Czeslaw Milosz, the winner of the Nobel Prize for poetry in 1982, is interviewed by Hēra Zaļinska for this issue. Milosz urges Latvians in exile to keep alive their heritage, not only for political reasons, but also for the personal depth that close contact with one's roots can give. The subject of heritage is also taken up by our regular contributor Juris Mazutis, who criticizes recent moves in the United States to have English declared as the only official language there, in response to the growing predominance of Spanish in areas having large Latin-American communities. Mazutis asks, "What has become of the idea that language is a treasure that anyone can take, yet not steal, from anyone else... that knowledge of your neighbour's language is the greatest courtesy and guarantee of security?"

The 1985 Song Festival in Rīga was highly successful, but also aroused criticism, such as that of Imants Ziedonis, reprinted in this issue from "Literatūra un Māksla". Vizma Maksiņa describes the festival from her viewpoint as a choral conductor and first-time visitor to her parents' homeland, while Fred Horbatschewsky gives his impressions as a Baltic German now living in Germany. Our music editor Imants Sakss writes about centenarian Jēkabs Graubiņš and contemporary composer Imants Kalniņš, who recently decided to devote himself entirely to the rock medium, both as a composer and leader of his own group.

Juris Tārs previews his monograph of Kārlis Ieviņš' (1888-1977) work as a painter. Ieviņš is better-known among Latvians as a writer, but he supported himself during the last part of his life as a painter of landscapes and portraits in Sweden.

The cover of this issue is by Voldemārs Avens (USA), and the frontispiece is a work in glass by Gundar Robez (Canada).


Ilze Valdmanis

Jaunā Gaita