Jaunā Gaita nr. 185, decembris 1991

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JG 185

This issue begins with citations from five Latvian Independence Day speeches, which serve as a barometer of the concerns of Latvians at home and abroad. Four themes emerge: the role of the state (Anatolijs Gorbunovs - President of Latvia), who will return from abroad to Latvia and why (Eduards Silkalns, Australia, and Dace Veinbergs, Canada), the help that Latvians living abroad can provide (Aleksandrs Sprūdžs, Canada) and the problem of dual citizenship (Rev. Māris Ķirsons, Canada). Ķirsons' speech, printed in this issue, points out the delusion of some Latvians abroad who voluntarily gave up their pre-war Latvian citizenship, yet who now are outraged by the new Republic of Latvia's proposal to outlaw dual citizenship. These themes are also seen in the "Press Mirror' section, which in this issue draws mainly from Montreālas Latviešu Biedrības Ziņotājs (the monthly bulletin of the Latvian Society of Montreal).

Juris Mazutis urges Latvians to consider the direction of the economic and cultural reforms now being effected in Latvia. He regards the choice as being between the French collective model and the American individualistic capitalistic model, and much prefers the latter.

Eduards Voitkūns (a businessman in Australia and a member of the executive of the World Association of Free Latvians - PBLA) has contributed to Jaunā Gaita a timely analysis of the realities facing Latvia's export development. The traditional exports of agricultural staples face formidable trade barriers and state subsidies in her traditional market, Western Europe. Specialized crops such as flax and sunflower seeds have greater export potential; developing local crops such as sugar beets and potatoes could reduce the need for imports of sugar and fuel. Tourism requires modem facilities. Latvia's relatively low labour costs, available raw materials and excellent designers could be the basis for development of the textile, glass and ceramic, building material and furniture industries.

In the first act of Trakts (meaning a nexus of roads or pathways) by the brilliant experimental playwright Uģis Segliņš, the reader returns to the tensions of the recent past in Latvia (the play was written in 1990). The play centers on Vaira, the middle-aged director of a television interview programme and widowed mother of a teenaged son and daughter. Segliņš has achieved an unsettling mix of realism (Vaira nags her children about school, food and their lackadaisical help in the family's sideline business selling home-grown flowers), enigmatic dialogue and inconclusive action. Vaira is confronted by strange doubles of herself, which appear suddenly on her TV monitor. It becomes clear that she is reaching a crisis point both at work and in her personal life. The play is subtly balanced in its structural detail, leaving the reader expectant for the resolution in the concluding act, to be published in the next issue of Jaunā Gaita. Uģis Segliņš, who is the resident dramaturge of the Daile Theatre in Riga, also contributes an article proposing the establishment of a Latvian drama library.

Uģis Vilciņš (Latvia) and Velta Rūķe-Draviņa (Sweden) examine problematic works by two of our classic writers, Jānis Rainis and Andrejs Pumpurs. Vilciņš uses Rainis' early journals and letters as a reference point for the study of the play Spēlēju, dancoju (published in 1919). While the play expresses protest against the repressive Czarist regime, comparing its agents to the creatures that celebrate the pagan night of the devils, its themes have universal relevance. He draws parallels between the murders of Andris Slapiņš and Gvido Zvaigzne during the Black Berets' reign of terror last year in Riga, and the drama of Tots, the main character of the play. Velta Rūke-Draviņa discusses Pumpurs' unfinished novel Kurmis. The work is loosely based on a folktale about a peasant strong man who robbed from the rich and gave to the poor, but Pumpurs' version is set in the Napoleonic period, and some of the characters are based on people from Pumpurs' childhood.

1992 marks the centenary of the birth of painter Valdemārs Tone (1892-1958). Art editor Nikolajs Bulmanis has assembled tributes to Tone from three artists. Arnolds Treibergs (USA) recalls his fascination, as a youth during the 1920's, with a picture by Tone of a woman holding a pigeon. Treibergs also recalls Tone's wide-ranging monologues to his students about art. Tatjana Suta (Latvia) compares Tone with another artist of 1930's, Ģederts Eliass, and describes the suppression of Tone's work in Latvia after the Communist takeover. However, now a collection of Tone's work is being gathered by the State Museum of Art in Riga, with many works donated by Tone's friend Marga Spertāle. Spertāle's daughter Asja provided the two photographs of Tone and his friends published for the first time in this issue. Laimonis Mieriņš (England) recalls Tone's years in exile in London, especially his kindness to his young student, Mieriņš. Mieriņš concludes that Tone made little impact on the British art world because he was out of step with the then dominant style of abstract expressionism.

The poetry section features three remarkable cycles of love poems by Margita Gūtmane (Germany), Jānis Ramba (Latvia) and Kelly Cherry (USA). Cherry is an American poet and novelist who had a love affair with Latvian composer Imants Kalniņš, but was prevented from marrying him by the Soviet bureaucracy of the time. She has described their 10-year struggle with the authorities in her memoir The Exiled Heart. A Meditative Autobiography (1991). Her cycle Songs for a Soviet Composer (1980) has been translated into Latvian by Valters Nollendorfs, and part of it is printed in this issue. Poetry by Juris Zommers and Velta Sniķere (whose poetic New Years wish for 1991 posits Gorbachov squatting forlornly in an oak tree) rounds out the section.

Book reviews in this issue are by Biruta Sūrmane (of a story collection by Marianna Ieviņa), Imants Žūriņš (of a monograph about painter Rūdolfs Pinnis) and Indulis Kažociņš (of the collected testimony of Latvian victims of Stalinist persecution, an essential reference for future historians). A portfolio of photographs by Andris Krieviņš of the Latvian countryside enhances this issue. The cover is by Ilmārs Rumpēters and the frontispiece is by Valdemārs Tone.

Juris Zommers

Jaunā Gaita