Jaunā Gaita nr. 177, maijs 1990

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JG 177

Since our last issue events of historic importance have happened in the Baltic: the parliaments of the three Baltic republics have declared their intent to become sovereign countries. The Lithuanians were the first to do so, on March 11 of this year. The declarations and the events following have gained the admiration of the world for the peaceful and democratic manner in which the Baltic countries are pursuing their goal, but the response from Moscow has been anger, threats of "tragedy", shows of military might, and an economic blockade. Aside from its admiration, the West has offered little help, apparently hoping that Moscow will soon realize that it has no case against the Baltic countries' independence, and that an economic blockade might hurt Moscow more than its intended victims. Ed. Keišs, one of our frequent contributors, offers a visual comment on the situation in Lithuania on page 53, while Juris Mazutis concludes his observations on politics and economics in Latvia with some recommendations for the implementation of sovereignty.

Aside from this, most of the content of this issue is devoted to Latvian culture in its various forms. The major contribution to this issue is by Uģis Segliņš, a young playwright and. dramaturge living in Latvia, who presents the full text of his play Attention Passengers (Pasažieru ievērībai). The play is a commentary on life, theatre and the cultural scene in general in today's Latvia. Written in rhyming verse, the play's grotesque theme (a head, a dismembered torso, 4 limbs and 2 souls thrown into a railway station garbage bin, trying to become a whole human being (even though they each belong to a different person) seems to be a satire on the somewhat pompous, high-minded verse-plays much admired by Latvians, but ethnic tensions in Latvia, the privileges enjoyed by army veterans and Communist party members, and gender warfare are hit by Segliņš' satire as well. The main character of the play is "remark", a combination of the chorus of Greek drama and the written stage directions of modern plays. The play is filled with puns and allusions (Pauls Dambis, Māra Zālīte, Gunārs Priede, Anšlavs Eglītis, Pauls Putninš, the rock group "Jumprava", the current affairs show "Labvakar" and many more). Segliņš couldn't even resist making a pun on "remark", alluding to novelist Erich Maria Remarque.

Another play by Segliņš is discussed in Baņuta Rubesa's review of Virtuss, a collection of experimental plays by five young authors published in Rīga in 1987. Rubesa sees the work of Segliņš and Lelde Stumbre as having dramatic interest and potential. However, Rubesa criticizes the work of the other three authors (Andris Zeibots, Jānis Jurkāns and Hermanis Paukšs) as being too didactic, as if the authors doubted their audience's ability to draw intelligent conclusions.

In JG 175 we had the opportunity to reproduce a delightful folio of drawings by Jāzeps Grosvalds. Visvaldis Bokalders, who was instrumental in obtaining permission to publish Grosvalds' drawings, introduces us to the work of Larss Vilks in this issue. Vilks, an environmental artist of Latvian ancestry living in Sweden, specializes in fantastic constructions of objects that he finds on the Baltic coast of Sweden. His work has been ridiculed and vandalized, town councils have passed ordinances against it, but lately it has been getting much recognition. Vilks' best-known work "Nimis" is pictured on page 39.

Imants Sakss writes about a Latvian musician who has also received much recognition recently: conductor Mariss Jansons. Sakss had the opportunity to hear Jansons' "transformation" of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, part of his tour of North America this past winter. Meanwhile, hundreds of Latvians from North America are preparing to participate, for the first time since 1945, in a song festival in Latvia in July 1990. The festival promises to be the culmination of the "awakening" of the past three years, a historic reunion of Latvians from all corners of the world and the Soviet Union, now that the political barriers enforcing their separation have been pushed aside. Imants Sakss describes the meaning of song festivals for Latvians in his greeting to the festival on the first page of this issue.

Our poetry section has a poem from the twelfth century by Philippe du Thaun, translated by Jānis Krēsliņš, comparing God's care of humanity to that of a pelican for its young. Two poets debut in this issue: Margita Gailīte lives near Montreal and writes in English as well as Latvian, while Guntars Račs is a well-known writer of rock lyrics in Latvia. The poems of Roberts Mūks, a regular contributor to JG for many years, express his cynicism about humanity and its tendency to see itself as the centre of the universe. Mūks also wrote a thoughtful review of Māris Čaklais' fine collection, of poems The Lover Returns to the Scene of the Crime (Rīga, 1989) for our book section. Maija Meirāne's poetry, Aina Vāvere's stories, and Aina Ozoliņa's novel Like Leaves in the Wind are reviewed in this issue. Aija Priedīte examines the Dictionary of Latvian published in 1987.

Other contributions to this issue are from Nikolajs Bulmanis, Andrievs Ezergailis and J. Purviņš Jurjāns. The frontispiece is by ceramicist Juta Grīnbergs Savage (USA) and the cover is by Ilmārs Rumpēters.


Ilze Valdmanis

Jaunā Gaita