Jaunā Gaita nr. 192, jūnijs 1993

JG 192

June 1993 is a month of great significance for Latvia: this month the first multi-party, democratic elections since 1931 were held to elect Latvia's parliament, the Saeima. Twenty-three groups contested the election, and several of these listed candidates living outside Latvia (Latvian citizens outside Latvia could participate in the election). The election campaigns were conducted fairly, with no incidents of violence or other irregularities reported, and the citizens of Latvia are to be congratulated on this achievement. This issue of Jaunā Gaita features comments on the election and the democratic process in Latvia by Jānis Peniķis, a former contributing editor of JG, Dainis Īvāns, the first president of the Latvian Popular Front, and Jānis Tupesis, a candidate for the Saeima from the USA, as well as a selection of campaign posters and several cartoons commenting on the election by Imants Zilberts.

The late Estonian poet Ivar Ivask was keenly interested in the fate of the Baltic countries. As editor of the literary journal World Literature Today (formerly Books Abroad), Ivask always included the Baltics, as well as other "small" countries, in the scope of the journal's coverage. His Baltic Elegies (published in a Latvian translation by Valters Nollendorfs in JG 172 and JG 183) eloquently express the feelings of an exile after his country has been occupied for fifty years and is in danger of being eradicated from the earth. Juris Silenieks has contributed a brief article in Ivask's memory for this issue of JG, and we have supplemented the article with examples of Ivask's poetry, photography and drawings, as well as an ex libris drawn for Ivask by Erik Haamer.

An eminent Baltic literary figure who died earlier this year was the prolific Latvian novelist, playwright, artist and essayist Anšlavs Eglītis. We print three fragments from his novel Homo novus (first published in instalments in 1942) in this issue. The novel is a delightful characterization of the artists' community of Riga during the thirties. We also welcome novelist and artist Veronika Janelsiņa, who has contributed a fine short story.

Poetry in this issue is by Maija Meirāne (USA), Andrejs Irbe (Sweden), Juris Zommers (Canada), Marta Landmane (Great Britain), Guntars Godiņš (Latvia) and Jānis Medenis. Medenis' poem "A poet's grave" commemorates his 90th birthday. Irbe's poems are a concentrated summary of Latvia's history from 1925 to 1944 ("We were not taught to think, we were taught - to believe."). Zommers ponders the wonder of creation: how could a drawing of a bird by a five-year-old be so alive that it seems to be observing its observers?

Composer Pēteris Vasks has an explanation for creativity: "To suffer with the pain of the world. This to me is the beginning of creation." Vasks' essay "The Suffering and Joy of Creation (in a Latvian composer's view)" describes how his music is based in the experience of the Baltic countries and the harmony of the natural world.

Gustavs Klucis, an artist who stayed in Russia after World War I as a supporter of communism, died in Stalin's purges. He was one of the best known artists of the constructivist and suprematist schools of the 1920s. Art historian Visvaldis Bokalders discusses some of Klucis' most interesting surviving work in this issue.

Nikolajs Bulmanis uses an article by Pēteris Bankovskis in the February 19, 1993 issue of Literatūra un Māksla, reviewing an exhibition of works by artists living in Latvia and by Latvian artists living abroad, as the starting point for an essay on the development of Latvian art in exile and in Latvia after World War II. Bulmanis also describes the first attempts, in 1980/1981, to organize exchanges of art between Latvia and the exile Latvian community, and the concerns of the political overseers of culture in Latvia that the work from abroad not be "too abstract".

For our Theatre section, Uģis Segliņš, in an article about Raimonds Staprāns' new play Mieles (The Dregs), describes Staprāns as a playwright whom he rates very highly, although Mieles, a play about a middle-aged woman's personal crisis, is not the "Great Latvian Play that everyone is waiting for". Brigita Siliņa, who played the main character in Mieles in its debut in Riga, has a "midnight conversation" with Ivars Puga, the accomplished young actor who played her lover in Mieles.

We have three book reviews in this issue. Biruta Sūrmane reviews V. Jakobsons' Breakfast in the North, a collection of short stories about life in the Gulag Archipelago, Rolfs Ekmanis describes Archīvs XXXI, edited by historian Edgars Dunsdorfs, and Gunars Zvejnieks reviews Pierre Schori's book on Swedish foreign policy since the Second World War. About one-tenth of the book covers Swedish policy on the Baltic States.

Ojārs Zanders, a librarian in the Latvian Academic Library in Riga, describes the 500 year-old library's magnificent collection, whose oldest item dates from the 13th century AD. Armands Ābols, winner of several international pianists' competitions, contributes a brief autobiography, emphasizing the influence his teachers in Riga have had on his success. Juris Mazutis describes some dubious practices that he has observed in political debates and articles about Latvia.

The frontispiece is by Yvonne Vaar (Canada), and the cover is by Andris Krieviņš (Latvia).


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Jaunā Gaita