Jaunā Gaita nr. 167, maijs 1988

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JG 167

The last several months have seen astonishing events taking place in Latvia and the Soviet Union: demonstrations, demands for self-determination for national minorities, controversy over construction projects, and ethnic conflicts. The authorities have admitted that the history being taught in schools is false, and the true facts of Latvia's occupation and "request" for incorporation into the Soviet Union have been publicly revealed. A huge demonstration took place in Riga on June 14 of this year, to commemorate the victims of the infamous 1941 deportations to Siberia. Some idea of the magnitude of this demonstration is given by the photograph on page 1 of this issue. We in the West are reacting to these events with joy and bitterness - joy that they are happening, bitterness that it has taken so long and so many obstacles remain.

Latvians in the West usually refer to themselves as exiles, in the sense that they or their parents left their country unwillingly as refugees, and feel that they cannot return until national sovereignty has been re-established. In the strict sense of the word, however, we are not exiles, but émigrés, exile being the state of enduring the formal judicial sentence of banishment. Valija Ruņģe discusses these terms and others such as 'fatherland' and 'homeland' in her article "Literatures in Exile: definitions, examples, analysis." Her husband Aivars Ruņģis, a propos of this article, contributes a poem dedicated to members of the group "Helsinki '86" who have left the Soviet Union and now live in the West. A poem in English by the Estonian émigré poet and critic lvar lvask is reprinted on page 19 of this issue from his book Baltic Elegies.

As a result of the ferment going on in Latvia and its reflections in the émigré community, JG has renewed one of its former sections, the "Press Mirror". Two pages in this issue are devoted to excerpts from the press in Latvia, and two pages to excerpts from the émigré press.

Modris Zeberiņš contributes an article on the poetry and prose of Velta Toma. His style is certainly unconventional for literary criticism - emotional, vivid, extravagant with praise, but the praise is well-deserved for one of our finest poets. Zeberiņš nominates Toma for "Spīdola's crown", an honour he has invented, based on the literary character of Spīdola in Rainis' Uguns un Nakts, who represents the highest spheres of culture and intellect. A selection of Toma's poetry has been reprinted in this issue to accompany Zeberiņš' article.

Nikolajs Bulmanis describes the evening dedicated to Velta Toma, held last year in Toronto, in his column. Bulmanis also talks about the exhibition of the late Valdis Āboliņš' letters and other materials held last year in Rīga. Valdis Āboliņš was a well-known organizer of avant-garde art exhibitions in West Germany, and he organized exhibitions of Latvian art, as well as sabbatical years in West Germany for several artists from Latvia. The exhibition in Rīga was a tribute to Āboliņš' efforts to bring Latvian art back into contact with the European mainstream.

Imants Sakss reminisces about the eminent musicologist, teacher and critic Jēkabs Vītoliņš (1898-1977), who was one of Sakss' own teachers at the Latvian Conservatory. Vītoliņš' greatest work is the series of monographs on Latvian folk melodies, published in 5 large volumes from 1958 to 1986. Imants Kalniņš, one of Latvia's most popular composers, had his 5'th symphony performed for the first time outside the Soviet Union, this past May, by the Boston Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra under Christopher Blair. Pēteris Aldiņš briefly reviews the performance for this issue.

This issue's theatre section contains a long interview by Brigita Siliņa of the young Latvian actress Laila Robiņš, who already has a distinguished career on the American stage. Ilmārs Krasts reviews a performance by two of Latvia's leading actors (and a director), Astrīda Kairiša and Kārlis Auškāps, in Los Angeles this year, while Juris Mazutis asks, in his column, whether these visits by performers from Latvia are harmful, as they are alleged to be by the right-wing émigré press, or helping to raise the standards of both audiences and performers in the émigré community.

Our book review section contains reviews of books by poets Ārija Elksne and Andrejs Eglītis, Gertrude Schneider's Muted Voices, a collection of interviews with survivors of the Rīga ghetto, and a collection of humoresques in the Ventiņu dialect by Kārlis Zvejnieks (Kuraž Krišs). The poetry section contains work by Maija Meirāne, Erna Jureviča, Ilze Kļaviņa and Velta Kaltiņa, while the prose section has "Unplays", Valters Nollendorfs' satire on the state of Latvian theatre here and in Latvia. The cover is by Laimonis Mieriņš and the frontispiece reproduces a painting, "Jamieson Creek", by Reinis Zusters.


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Jaunā Gaita