Jaunā Gaita nr. 172, aprīlis 1989

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JG 172

Poetry in translation dominates the literary offerings in this issue: Jānis Krēsliņš sr.'s translation of T.S. Eliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" and Valters Nollendorfs' translation of Ivar Ivask's Baltic Elegies, written originally in English. As Ivask explains in his introduction to the Elegies, there were two reasons for his decision to write in English, rather than in his native Estonian: English has become the lingua franca of most Balts in exile, as well as the most widespread language in the world. Through English Ivask felt he could communicate his thoughts not only to Estonians, but to all Balts, and convey to the world an insight into "What it means to be from the northeastern corner of Europe, with its distinctive culture, that is increasingly being threatened by disregard for ecological imperatives, by nuclear weapons and accelerated russification". The Elegies have been translated into several other languages, including a Polish translation by Ceslaw Milosz.

Uldis Bērziņš introduces us to an Israeli poet, Amir Gilboa, for whom the Old Testament is a source of metaphor and allusion in much the same way that folklore provides inspiration for Latvian poetry. Laima Kalniņa has contributed a delightful short story titled "Sleep and the Lovers". The allegorical tale "The Kind Loner, the Wolf and the Sheep" by Ēriks Ādamsons (1907-1946) was originally printed in 1942 in a literary almanach that was banned by Nazi censors.

The era of glasnost has produced a flurry of cultural exchange between Latvia and the West. Exhibits of current Latvian art have been held recently in West Berlin and New York. The quality of these shows is due to another benefit of glasnost - art to be shown abroad is now selected by the artists themselves, rather than by bureaucrats, as usually happened in the past. Voldemārs Avens reports on the show in New York, while Nikolajs Bulmanis comments on the Berlin exhibition and its extensive catalogue. Travelling in the opposite direction, the little theatre of San Francisco appeared on the stage of the National Theatre in Rīga last December. (The director of the little theatre, Laimonis Siliņš, performed as a guest actor with the Daile ensemble several years ago.) The actors' impressions of their performance and visit were recorded by Māra Celle for Jaunā Gaita.

The Latvian Concert Choir of New York is also preparing for a visit to Latvia this summer. Aina Poilova gives an overview of the choir's history, marked by achievements such as the concert performances of Alfreds Kalniņš' operas Baņuta and Salenieki and the production of Gundega, Andrejs Jansons' musical adaptation of Anna Brigadere's play. Imants Sakss dedicates his column to Ādolfs Ābele (1889-1967), a prominent musician during Latvia's period of independence. Sakss also reviews the excellent Toronto performance of the Rīga String Quartet, which toured North America this spring.

Laimonis Mieriņš discusses developments in the arts in Latvia. He notes that there was no lack of art exhibitions in Latvia last year, and the Arts Days in Rīga, marred by vandalism in 1987, suffered no unpleasant incidents. However, writing about the arts in the Latvian press has suffered because of glasnost - now that the restrictions on free discussion of political developments have been eased, a veritable torrent of such discussion has taken up much of the space in the weekly arts newspaper Literature and Art that was previously devoted to commentary about the arts.

Roberts Mūks has written several books on post-Christian philosophy under his real name Roberts Avens. In this issue we have the first part of Mūks' essay "Christianity and Technology", based on the ideas of Wolfgang Giegerich, who has attempted to explain why the most rapid development of technology, and the most aggressive exploitation of the natural world, has taken place in Christian (or previously Christian) societies.

We are reprinting, in 2 parts, a rather one-sided history of the Latvian resistance movement during World War II. Gustavs Celmiņš (1899-1968) was a founder of the fascist group Pērkonkrusts and the leader of the resistance group Nacionālie partizāni until his arrest by the Gestapo in 1944. In Rome after the war he published a newsletter called Free Latvia, in which this article was originally printed. This account, written by Celmiņš and other witnesses of the events, emphasizes the central role of the Nacionālie partizāni, an emphasis which would probably be disputed by other Latvian resistance groups. Nevertheless, this article is a useful factual illumination of this little-known, tragic period of Latvia's history.

Our book section begins with Gundars Pļavkalns' review article on the poetry of Astrīde Ivaska. We also have reviews of Guna Ikona's latest collection of poems, Eglons Spēks' new novel, Indra Gubiņa's collection of travel essays, Aija Priedīte's doctoral dissertation on the imagery of Skalbe's tales and Jānis Kēniņš' monograph on the supposed Latvian origins of Immanuel Kant.

Juris Mazutis discusses the political parties that might be established in Latvia if political pluralism is given a chance to develop. Ilmārs Rumpēters has contributed both the cover and the frontispiece for this issue.


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Jaunā Gaita