Jaunā Gaita nr. 188, septembris 1992

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JG 188

A year has passed since the abortive coup d'etat by the Communist old guard brought about the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the banning of the Communist Party and the re-establishment of the sovereignty of the Baltic States. Along with the Party went its main instrument of control, the KGB. The archives of the KGB are now publicly accessible, and the revelations of their contents are often astounding. One such revelation has been the discovery of a memoir written at the orders of the NKVD by the President of Latvia, Kārlis Ulmanis, during his captivity in Voroshilovsk in 1940. This memoir is now in the hands of the Latvian History Institute in Riga, and is being prepared for publication. Jaunā Gaita has the honour of publishing a fragment of this document in this issue. In it Ulmanis discusses the foreign policy of the Latvian republic and efforts by foreign nations to gain influence in Latvia for their own ends, both political and economic. Ulmanis emphasizes the efforts of the government of Latvia to ensure Latvia's economic independence, citing the decline in foreign holdings of Latvian industrial shares from 51% in 1933 to 38% in 1938, and the fact that the Ķegums hydroelectric dam was constructed almost entirely with Latvian capital. Ulmanis' description of the efforts to ensure Latvia's economic independence and integrity could be used as an example for today's Latvia; in the article from which our frontispiece is extracted, poet Imants Ziedonis states metaphorically: 'When we sell our forests, let us not sell the Forest Mother. When our athletes lease their limbs and give interviews to the world, let them tell about the air of Latvia. Science is not Latvian, but Latvian scientists are.'

Another memoir now being published is that of poet Vizma Belševica. We had a fragment of this childhood memoir in issue 186 (April 1992), and in this issue we have a second. This time Belševica describes her intense reaction to seeing a production of Rainis' The Golden Steed, having nightmares about the allegorical figure of Death that appears in the play, and insisting on getting a new doll and naming her Saulcerīte, after the princess in the play. Inta Ezergailis (Cornell University) reviews Belševica's memoir in this issue. The book describes growing up in a working-class family in Riga in the 1920s and 1930s through the eyes of an exceptionally observant and sensitive child. No attempt is made to sentimentalize or tone down the harshness of her life or the lives of the people around her. Ezergailis predicts that the book will become a classic of Latvian literature and of the social and cultural documentation of that period.

In JG 187 Kārlis Ābele predicted that most Latvians abroad would not return to Latvia, even though it has regained its sovereignty. But those who do often encounter unbelievable obstacles and rewards. In this issue poet and novelist Aina Zemdega describes a woman's efforts to regain her father's grain mill, the difficulties caused by bureaucratic apathy, and the welcome and help that she gets from her new neighbours.

Ruta Muižniece describes the work of Ilmārs Blumbergs, arguably the most important artist in Latvia today, and certainly one of the most internationally recognized Latvian artists. A portrait of Blumbergs, a photographic diptych by Andrejs Grants, appears on pages 2 and 3 of this issue.

Juris Podnieks, a well-known documentary filmmaker ("Death of an Empire", "Is it Easy to Be Young?"), drowned this summer in Latvia at the age of 42. Podnieks' contribution both to film and to the Latvian "awakening" of the past ten years is described by Nikolajs Bulmanis. Bulmanis also contributes a letter written by Podnieks in 1982, just after completing a documentary on the Latvian riflemen. The letter alludes to the difficulties Podnieks anticipates with the keepers of the Riflemens' Museum in Riga, whose orthodox views on the history of the riflemen might differ from what Podnieks presents in his film.

Poetry in this issue consists entirely of translations. Gunars Saliņš has translated two poems by Charles Simic about a place Saliņš himself has often described: the Hell's Kitchen area of New York City. Guna Chaberek has translated three poems by Ed Chaberek, and Aina Kraujiete has translated three poems by Czeslaw Milosz and a poem by Saint-Denys-Garneau (1912 - 1941), where the poet compares himself to a cage, a "rap of bones", for death, which will be able to escape only when it has "eaten my whole heart". Fricis Dziesma has translated the work of several Swedish poets for this issue. The poems of Ebba Lindquist, Tom Hedlund and Maria Wine are presented in standard literary Latvian, while those of Erik Axel Karlfeldt, Helmer Grundstrom and Nils Ferlin are presented in the dialect of northwest Kurzeme by Dziesma's alter ego, Alant Vils.

Latvian television interviewed the late poet Ārija Elksne (1928 - 1984) in 1974. JG was able to obtain a transcript of the interview and prints it in this issue. Elksne describes her main theme as "the feelings of a woman whose life's main content is care for her family". She also derived inspiration from the work of other artists: "At times I like to stop at an idea [expressed by Imants Ziedonis or Alberts Bels], to develop it further, to give it my own interpretation."

Juris Mazutis discusses the somewhat failed promise of the information revolution, the explosive growth of the information industry and its implications for Latvia. Gundars Pļavkalns contributes an essay about essays, using a recent collection of Anšlavs Eglītis' essays and reviews as his starting point for "excursions" into the essays of George Orwell and 19'th and 20'th century European "theories" of race. This issue also contains the conclusion of Gunta Plostniece's interview with Raimonds Pauls and Mārtiņš Lasmanis' review of a production of "The Marriage of Figaro" by the Latvian Opera. Gunars Zvejnieks describes the successful visit by the Estonian Opera to Sweden with three operas: two by Eduard Tubin and one by Aulis Sallinen. Biruta Sūrmane reviews Lūcija Bērziņa's second volume of memoirs, covering the period from 1944 to 1949, describing the last year of the war in Germany, life in the refugee camps in Germany, and the Baltic University at Pineberg, where Bērziņa worked for three years. lmants Zilberts contributed the drawing on page 58, and the cover is by Ilmārs Rumpēters.

Ilze Valdmanis

Jaunā Gaita