Jaunā Gaita nr. 176, februāris 1990

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JG 176

In this issue we have an eclectic mix of topics: art, literature, political events, music. Our art section begins with Laimonis Mieriņš' annual survey of the art world in Latvia for 1989. As usual, Mieriņš conveys much information and incisive comments in a limited space. (Laimonis Mieriņš is himself a practising artist and art teacher in Leeds, England, and recently had a show of his paintings at the Smith Art Gallery in Brighouse, Leeds.) Zigurds Konstants, an art historian living in Rīga, contributes a long-overdue account of the life of Jānis Pauļuks, one of Latvians finest and best-loved painters of the post-war period. Pauļuks had an argumentative and forceful personality, and was much harassed by the Soviet authorities for his individualism.

Inta Čaklā, also living in Riga, contributes an essay on the life and poetry of Knuts Skujenieks. Skujenieks, like Pauļuks, was harassed in the 1960's by the authorities, and endured a hard-labour sentence in Siberia. His poetry of that period is yet to be published. Skujenieks encouraged Latvian writers to become acquainted with other literatures - not the "great" ones, but those of nations whose fate is similar to ours, and he has influenced younger poets such as Māris Čaklais and Uldis Bērziņš.

Another poet persecuted by the authorities, Vizma Belševica, contributes a moving account of the death of her son, poet Klāvs Elsbergs, and some of the events leading up to his death. She paints a grim picture of aspects of the Soviet system that we in the West would often prefer to ignore. Māra Gulēna, a young poet from Canada currently living in Latvia, writes an account of her return to Latvia last year. The piece is very personal, yet the feelings it expresses are probably felt by many second-generation Latvians in exile, especially those who have been brought up, as Gulēna has, with a deep identification with their parents' and grandparents' homeland.

Aina Zemdega (Canada) also writes about her feelings on returning to Latvia, both in her poetry, such as the series "Songs of Sorrow" in this issue, and in her prose. Her latest novel "To the Gates - and Beyond?" is reviewed in this issue. Gunars Bekmans describes the return to Riga of an exile Latvian with his two sons, in his short story "The Hooligans". Alma Bēne (Texas) and Ilze Binde (Latvia) have also contributed poetry to this issue. Ādolfs Šapiro, a highly-respected director in Latvia, writes an amusing yet insightful piece about the manoeuvres that accompany the assignment of roles, even in plays produced and directed by children.

Two of our editors, Juris Mazutis and Andrievs Ezergailis, describe their recent visits to Latvia and comment on the development of democracy there. Juris Mazutis spent a month in Riga as a guest lecturer at the State University of Latvia, talking about the use of personal computers in research, economics and electronic publishing. Ezergailis' account, begun in JG 175, concludes here with some controversial ideas.

Our book section begins with two reviews of Imants Ziedonis' poetry. Of particular interest is the review by Aija Bjornson of Barry Callaghan's English translation Flowers of Ice (Toronto: Exile Editions, 1987). Callaghan was introduced to the poetry of Ziedonis by playwright Baņuta Rubess and her sister Baiba. In Bjornson's opinion, The poetry of Imants Ziedonis in Callaghan's translation is fresh and interesting and can delight the English reader". Mārtiņš Lasmanis reviews Ziedonis' 1988 poetry collection The Attack of the Butterflies (Taureņu uzbrukums) and Kārlis Ķezbers' novel Adventurers and Lovers (Dēkaiņi un mīlētāji, Brooklyn, 1988). Aivars Ruņģis has contributed a review of Visvaldis Lāms' novel In the Glow of the Northem Lights (Kāvu blāzmā, Rīga, 1989), which Ruņģis calls the most complete and accurate portrayal of the thoughts, hopes and pain of Latvians during the Nazi and Stalinist periods that has yet been published. Finally, we have Gunars Zvejnieks' review of Adolfs Šilde's memoir Farewell to Rīga (Brooklyn, 1988).

An important development of the past few years has been the revival of national consciousness in Latgale, Latvia's eastern province. Arturs Priedītis describes the reopening of the department of Latvian culture and literature in the Daugavpils Teacher's College, after being disbanded 30 years ago. Viktors Neimanis provides an introduction to Anna Rancāne, a young but already leading poet of Latgale, whose poetry appeared in our last issue.

The frontispiece is by Rolands Kaņeps, a Latvian artist living in the USA, and the cover is a computer graphic by Laris Saliņš (USA).



Jaunā Gaita