Jaunā Gaita nr. 187, jūnijs 1992

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JG 187


This issue opens with a ground-breaking discussion by Kārlis Ābele of the choice facing Latvians scattered around the world. They could return "home" to a newly independent Latvia, helping it by adding to the size of the Latvian population, strengthening the democratic process and bringing in capital. Yet probably only a small number of Latvians in exile will abandon their present lives for the harsh realities of a Latvia so different from the one they left almost 50 years ago, or from the idealized Latvia taught in the exile community's schools. "You can't go home again," concludes Ābele, but those choosing to live outside Latvia can give it invaluable assistance nevertheless.

Historian Andrievs Ezergailis (Ithaca College) contributes a fresh critical perspective to the debate about the complicity of Latvians in the Holocaust in Latvia. Commenting on what he regards as the residue of both Soviet and Nazi propaganda in the speeches by Mavriks Vulfsons (one of the leaders of the independence movement in Latvia) and by Anatolijs Gorbunovs (Chairman of the Latvian Parliament) given at the 1991 commemorative service for the 27 000 Latvian Jews slaughtered on Nov. 24, 1941 at Rumbula (amongst them 20 close relatives of Vulfsons), Ezergailis urges the use of specific, proven facts instead of inaccurate generalizations, to help heal the bitterness between Latvians and the Jewish community of Latvia.

A television documentary on the life of St. Petersburg's 20 000 homeless children appalled Juris Mazutis; the breakdown of family relationships is one of the saddest legacies of the Soviet regime, but Mazutis agrees with Vaclav Havel that this is a problem also in the West. He argues that real reform in the former Soviet Union must begin with the development of personal responsibility.

Our new music editor Gunta Plostniece interviewed Raimonds Pauls, the present Minister of Culture of Latvia, and a popular pianist and composer, during his concert tour of North America this spring. The old system is gone, but Pauls points out that in a small country the state must play an active role in fostering cultural activity, while strictly avoiding the kind of political and artistic control practised by the Soviet regime. The Ministry of Culture funds Latvia's repertory theatres, the state symphonic orchestra, the ballet, the major choirs which are a distinctive feature of Latvia's cultural life. The Ministry's largest undertaking at the moment is the renovation of the Opera House in Riga, to be completed in 1995. On a personal level, Pauls looks forward to the time when he can resume his musical career.

Nikolajs Bulmanis notes several events in the Latvian art world: the lack of press coverage for the annual meeting of the Latvian Artists' Union, the first since Latvia regained its independence; two shows by Ilmārs Blumbergs, one at the State Museum of Art in Riga, which institution he otherwise faults for its lack of daring, and the other at the art exhibition held during the June 1992 conference of the Association for the Advancement of Baltic Studies (AABS) at the University of Toronto; and lastly the transfer to Latvia of a large collection of works by Sigurds Vīdzirkste. Bulmanis also describes the impact of the new series of paintings on "ancestral lakes" by Daina Dagnija (USA).

Velta Rūķe-Draviņa analyzes how writers Aspazija (Latvia), Lars Forsell (Sweden) and Irving Fineman (USA) have used the Biblical story of Boas and Ruth to illustrate issues of importance to them. Aspazija introduces an element of class conflict and emphasizes the physical passion of Boas and Ruth; Forsell's main theme is the tragedy of the outsider (Ruth), while Fineman uses the story to illustrate the traditions of democracy and tolerance, and other aspects of Biblical life, in Israel.

The central theme of Veronika Strēlerte's poetry, concludes Margita Gūtmane, has been the loneliness and isolation which is the exile's condition, although there are moments of humour and self-irony in her work. Strēlerte's collections have appeared with ever greater intervals between them; the last one after twenty years of silence, broken only now and then by a new poem of ruthless intensity. One unanswered question: how many years until Strēlerte's next collection?

In counterpoint to Kārlis Ābele, the poems of Andrejs Irbe (Sweden), Māris Čaklais (Latvia), Lidija Dombrovska-Larsena (Australia), Valentīns Pelēcis (USA) and Jānis Gorsvāns (USA) all touch upon the theme of exile and going home. Irbe, a former contributing editor to Jaunā Gaita, makes a welcome return with an intense summation of the ambiguities of homecoming; while Čaklais takes stock of the rather daunting task of rebuilding Latvia: barricades are not dowry chests, he says in a concluding line. In addition to her poetry, Lidija Dombrovska Larsena contributes an experimental short story titled "Confession". Roberts Mūks (USA), the final author in the poetry section, wryly compares man to both God and stone, concluding that man is less finished than either. Mūks' poetry and his recent lectures in Latvia on archetypal psychology (given under his real name Roberts Avens), have had considerable impact in Latvia, reports Vilnis Eihvalds.

In our book review section Mārtiņš Lasmanis looks at the collection of new poetry by Margita Gūtmane, who lives in Germany, published in Latvia - this is one of the first collections by an exile poet to be published in Latvia. Juris Silenieks evaluates the poetry of Lolita Gulbe, Ainārs Ščipčinskis discusses the new handbook on Latvian writers in the West and Dzintars Sodums analyzes theologian Haralds Biezais' latest collection of essays.

The cover is by Ilmārs Rumpēters and the frontispiece is by Vija Celmiņa (USA). Imants Zilberts has contributed two political cartoons.

Juris Zommers


Jaunā Gaita