Jaunā Gaita nr. 179, novembris 1990

JG 179


With the economic and political system of the USSR in a state of disarray, Latvians are concerned with their economic and political future. In this issue Juris Mazutis advocates the restoration of a market economy based on competition, private ownership and individual initiative, as well as a democratically-elected, responsible government and independent judiciary. His ideas are not particularly new or original, but as a distillation of Western experience they may be useful to those who are attempting to build a modern nation on the ruins left behind by the communist system.

Mazutis emphasizes that government should have only a minimal supporting role in culture, but Leons Briedis, in an article originally published in the arts newspaper Literatūra un Māksla in October, argues that the contribution of artists to a nation's stature in the international community and to the lives of its citizens cannot be measured in economic terms alone: "What does, say, a professional writer cost? Would it not be more accurate to ask not how much such a writer costs the nation, but the opposite - how much he with his talent and seemingly unprofitable work pays the nation, ensuring it respect, honour and recognition among all the peoples of the world?" Another variation on the theme of the economic role of culture in a nation's life is examined by Viktors Hausmanis in his article "Latvia's Theatres in Search of a Path": will it be possible for Latvian theatre to be self-supporting without becoming totally commercial, to find a balance between innovation, experiment and pure entertainment? At the moment theatres in Latvia are rediscovering their heritage: classic Latvian plays are being vigorously revived, and the work of Latvian playwrights abroad, particularly Mārtiņš Zīverts and Anšlavs Eglītis, is acclaimed on stages all across Latvia.

Latvian theatre-lovers are mourning the recent death of Mārtiņš Zīverts in Sweden. Although Zīverts' work was known to theatre specialists in Latvia, his work has only recently been published and made available to the general public. Benedikts Kalnačs, a young critic living in Latvia, reviews a collection of Zīverts' plays assembled by Viktors Hausmanis and published in Rīga in 1989. Kalnačs identifies two principles as the basis of all Zīverts' plays: the importance of the individual over any power structure and the primacy of artistic concerns over ideology and patriotism. Even in those plays where Zīverts' love of his homeland is plainly evident, the main dramatic theme is not the conflict between "us" and outsiders - the ethical themes of honour and human respect are always dominant.

Gundars Pļavkalns, a frequent contributor to Jaunā Gaita, has reviewed Roberts Mūks' latest volume of poetry When There Are No More Cows (Sotuqnangu, Michigan, 1989). Pļavkalns' reviews are personal and idiosyncratic, often discussing topics that seem asides to the work being reviewed, but always erudite, honest and entertaining. Pļavkalns characterizes Mūks as an "overwise modernist" who likes to play with thoughts and imagination, "but only occasionally rouses spontaneous inspiration, anticipation, emotional intensity." He also criticizes Mūks for allowing his profession as a philosopher and comparative theologist to intrude too heavily into his poetry; only when Mūks writes about "all sorts of feminine beauties" and, to a lesser extent, reacts to the world being transformed by science and technology, does his poet's "lens" become more "normal". Other reviews in this issue are of Jānis Baltvilks' volume of poetry The Snow Has No Choice (Rīga, 1989) and a collection of the writings of educator Jānis Greste published in Rīga in 1990.

The poets featured in this issue are Aina Kraujiete, Klāra Zāle, Rita Gāle, Aivars Ruņģis (all living in the USA) and Laima Līvena (Latvia). Several sections of Kraujiete's "Metamorphoses of the Moon: from the diary of a somnambulist" have appeared in earlier issues of Jaunā Gaita, starting with issue 103; this issue contains the concluding sections. We also have two short stories, one by Aina Vāvere on the theme of the "cord" that binds us to our past, the other by Irēne Blūmfelde on the deceptiveness of surface appearances.

Nikolajs Bulmanis looks at the life and work of Jānis Strods, an artist who lived much of his life in Chicago, but identified intensely with his native Latgale. Imants Bite introduces us to Arvīds Strazdiņš, who used the name Veko on his work, an artist who documented the experience of the Latvian soldiers interned in the Zedelgheim camp after the Second World War in Belgium. Those who survived this camp founded the aggressively patriotic veterans' organization Daugavas Vanagi, even today probably the strongest organization in the Latvian exile community.

Imants Sakss contributes his memories of Alfreds Valdmanis, the last Latvian finance minister before the Second World War, and offers, as ever, a fascinating view of Latvia before the war. Ed. Keišs has contributed three portraits to this issue, of Imants Sakss, Alfreds Valdmanis and composer Raimonds Pauls. The frontispiece is by Fridrichs Milts and the cover is by Voldemārs Avens. Both artists live in New York.


Ilze Valdmanis


Jaunā Gaita