Jaunā Gaita nr. 190, decembris 1992

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JG 190

We feature three prose authors in this issue. Our late contributing editor Osvalds Liepa (1908-1992) wrote the novel Guests from Far Away (Tālie viesi) in 1984, dealing with the experiences of visitors to Latvia in the not too distant past. We have an excerpt from this novel. Dzintars Sodums, best known for his groundbreaking Latvian translation of James Joyce's Ulysses, has written several novels. We feature several sections of his latest novel, Young in Exile, Stockholm 1945-1963, in this issue. The novel is about a young Latvian named Tebe, who lives in Sweden just after the Second World War, and the difficulties he faces. Tebe happens to have Swedish relatives, and recounts the life stories of these people. In doing so Sodums elucidates some rarely-seen aspects of the common history of northern Europe. The book also contains interesting vignettes of the Latvian exile community in Sweden. The third prose writer featured in this issue is Visvaldis Lāms, who died in 1992 not long after the publication of his last novel Ķēves dēls Kurbads (Kurbads, the Mare's Son), based on the myth of the Latvian folk hero Kurbads, although Lāms' Kurbads has a much more interesting and adventurous life than the original Kurbads. The novel has generated much excitement in Latvia; we include three excerpts from the novel in this issue as illustrations of Lāms' concern with the history and fate of his small country, living in the shadows cast by its powerful and aggressive neighbours, Russia and Germany.

Critic Ildze Kronta, who lives in Latvia, has contributed an essay on the problems faced by novelists such as Lāms, who insisted on examining large themes, such as the fate of the Latvian nation, with the Communist political establishment, whose goal was to obliterate any notion of Latvia as a nation.

Edvīns Strautmanis (1933-1992), a Latvian painter, produced large abstract expressionist canvases in his loft in SoHo (New York City) and gained a great deal of critical acclaim for his work; he also explored the medium of lithography. Nikolajs Bulmanis describes Strautmanis' life and career in this issue. Several reproductions of Strautmanis', work, unfortunately constrained to black-and-white, as well as photographs taken during Bulmanis' visits with Strautmanis, appear in this issue.

Our editor Laimonis Zandbergs interviewed a colleague from Latvia, Andris Sproģis, the editor of the youth magazine Draugs (Friend), during Sproģis' visit to Canada in 1992. Sproģis describes the difficulties faced by young people in Latvia today, how the magazine tries to address these problems and the challenges of issuing a magazine that must pay for itself, but whose reading audience usually has no source of income of its own. The magazine also features work by young writers. We reprint a short story by one of these writers, Kristiana, in this issue.

The following books are reviewed in this issue: poet Guna Ikona's childhood memoir Childhood's Starscapes (the reviewer is Mārtiņš Lasmanis), the third volume in Edgars Dunsdorfs' series Latvian Historical Maps, covering maps of Latgale produced in the 18'th and 19'th centuries (reviewed by Valdis J. Zeps), and the 1991 issue of the Latvian literary heritage yearbook Varavīksne (Rainbow) (reviewed by Mārtiņš Lasmanis). This volume reprints the minutes of the meeting held by literary censors in 1951 to discuss Andrejs Upīts' favourable attitude towards writers regarded by the Communist literary establishment as "enemies of the people", in Upīts' history of Latvian literature. Needless to say, Upīts had to perform major surgery before the book was allowed to be published. A critic who attended the 1951 meeting, Ingrīda Kiršentāle, later wrote: "I think that this occurrence had a huge influence on Upīts' later years, in fact breaking him. That the writer reworked his manuscript, trying to correct it, attests to the fact that Upīts did not understand the real purpose of this meeting - to silence him, to destroy his authority, to stop research into the literature of the 1920s and 1930s." The 1991 issue of Varavīksne also has essays on three Latvian writers who lived in Sweden - Kārlis Dziļleja, Jānis Kārkliņš and Alfrēds Dziļums, an autobiography by Fricis Bārda's brother Antons Bārda, poems by Fridrichs Gulbis written in reaction to his daughter's deportation to Siberia in 1947, and other materials. The last book reviewed in this issue is the volume of linguist Edīte Hauzenberga-Šturma's letters to critic Jānis Rudzītis in the period 1946-1970. The letters were assembled and edited by Ofelija Sproģere, and the review is by linguist Aija Janelsiņa-Priedīte. Priedīte feels that much in the letters is so personal that they were never intended to be read by others (and questions the reasons for publication of this volume) but she nevertheless finds the letters to be fascinating for Šturma's free use of the Latvian language and for her honest criticism of certain canons of Latvian linguistics.

As well as the book review named above, Aija Janelsiņa-Priedīte has a second significant contribution to this issue: an essay exploring the genesis of the character Spīdola in Rainis' Uguns un nakts (Fire and Night). Priedīte proposes that the character of Spīdola has little in common with her antecedent, Spīdala in Pumpurs' Lāčplēsis, but is more similar to Goethe's Faust.

Juris Mazutis discusses some of the latest applications of genetic research in medicine, genetic counselling and criminology, as well as some of the ethical problems raised by these applications. Our music editor, Gunta Plostniece, begins a series in this issue on young Latvian musicians. In the first article in this series, Andrew Martens, a Latvian baritone embarking on an operatic career in the United States, describes his education and musical interests. Anita Liepiņa contributes a review of Baņuta Rubesa's latest play, Head in a Bag, produced by the Theatre Passe Muraille in Toronto, about the Igor Gouzenko spy scandal in Canada in the 1940s. Poetry in this issue is by Baiba Bičole, lnese Baļķīte, Lolita Gulbe, Aina Kraujiete and Nora Kalna.

The frontispiece is by Edvīns Strautmanis. Drawings by Imants Zilberts are on pages 25 and 52, and the cover is by Voldemārs Avens.


Ilze Valdmanis

Jaunā Gaita