Jaunā Gaita nr. 178, septembris 1990

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JG 178

The two major events for Latvians during the summer of 1990, the Twentieth Song Festival in Riga and, to borrow a phrase from the Wall Street Journal, the "creeping recognition" of the new Baltic governments, are both represented in this issue. We have the privilege of publishing Gunars Zvejnieks' interview in May 1990 with Laila Freivalds, the Latvian-born justice minister of Sweden since 1988. Freivalds discusses her views on Latvian-Swedish relations, the recognition of Latvia's sovereignty, justice systems ("a nation's justice system must be rooted in its culture and thought"), the Latvian enthusiasm for founding new organizations (and political parties), and her concern that the mistakes of the past not be repeated: the Latvian parliament must have a structure that allows it to govern effectively. Freivalds' interview is supplemented with a fragment of Swedish foreign minister Sten Andersson's press release of Aug. 17, 1990: "We find it difficult to foresee peace and cooperation in Europe without the participation of the nations of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania." (translation I.V.)

It seems that the Bush administration is developing a policy of gradual recognition of Baltic sovereignty. President Bush met with Latvian prime minister Ivars Godmanis and Secretary of State Baker met Latvian foreign minister Jānis Jurkāns this summer (see pg. 57-59).

The XX Song Festival took place from July 5 to 8. In a fragment from her diary Ilze Valdmanis describes the Song Festival procession as the culmination of her month-long visit to Latvia this summer: 30,000 participants from Latvia and abroad walked through streets packed with hundreds of thousands of their countrymen and past the leaders of the three Baltic states. This was a festival of flags, flowers, songs, an emotional welcome "home" for Latvians from abroad.

The folktale theme of the third son, Antiņš, the "stupid" one, who overcomes huge obstacles and achieves success through humility and love, has been widely used as a metaphor for the Latvian people. The greatest treatment of this theme was by Rainis in the play The Golden Steed, first produced in 1909 (an English translation is in A. Straumanis' anthology of Baltic plays under the same title), the tale of the princess who lies asleep under a spell on a glass mountain and the poor peasant who awakens her and carries her down on a golden horse. The poetry section of this issue begins with Valters Nollendorfs' (USA) 1975 poem "Antiņš speaks on the summit of the glass mountain", written from the perspective of 30 years of Soviet rule in Latvia, when it seemed as if "the darkness at the top of the hill" would last forever, but Antiņš knows that "humanity has the nature of light: hand finds hand, hand in hand feels the way towards morning". Three poems by Imants Auziņš (Latvia) express cynicism about the current political situation in Latvia, where those who were persecuted under the former regime are now forced to "consolidate" with their persecutors, and about "this accursed century": "How can I divide your grief, my people? - no, the curse of this century cannot be divided: for some - the North snows leave no footprint, but others will vanish - in crematoria ..." Astride Ivaska (USA) has three poems in this issue expressing the meaning of this time for Latvians: "Our wounds are starting to heal ... but the scars will remain... there, as in ancient stone-carved runes, our history will speak." Other poems are by Roberts Mūks, Valdis Krāslavietis and Valentīns Pelēcis, all living in the USA. Gunars Bekmans (USA) contributes an entertaining story with a Brazilian theme.

Arnolds Klotiņš, a leading Latvian music critic and musicologist, was interviewed by Ilze Šarkovska for this issue. Klotiņš gives concise and insightful views on the current state of Latvian music, both in Latvia and abroad. Jānis Gulbītis interviewed Māra Rozīte, a director with the Stockholm Latvian theatre, and Andris Blekte, a director in Swedish theatre.

Books reviewed for this issue are Andrejs Irbe's latest volume of poetry, Andris Puriņš' science fiction novel Carefree Travellers, Jānis Klīdzējs' collection of short stories A Meeting in Rīga, and a collection of essays on Francis Trasuns (1864-1926), a leader of the Latgallian revival at the turn of the century. Imants Sakss is recuperating from an operation, but in spite of this contributed an article on the life and music of Jānis Mediņš in honour of Mediņš' centenary this year. Juris Mazutis comments on the contrasts between the Soviet reactions to the revolutions in Eastern Europe last year and this year's revolutions within the USSR. Jānis Liepiņš, an author living in Latvia, contributes some personal criticisms of this year's meeting of the Latvian Writers' Union.

Imants Zilberts introduces textile artist Sandra Ikše, and her work titled "Open My Inner Eye" is on the frontispiece. Ed. Keišs contributed the cartoons of prime minister Ivars Godmanis and Ojārs Kalniņš, the new information officer of the Latvian legation in Washington, on pg. 59 and of poet Māra Zālīte on pg. 48. The issue closes with Skaidrīte Rubene's satirical look at the Latvian cultural scene in California, as it might appear to a writer such as Salman Rushdie. The cover is by Ilmārs Rumpēters.


I. V., L.Z.

Jaunā Gaita