Jaunā Gaita nr. 197, augusts 1994

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JG 197

Poetry in this issue begins with several poems by Māra Gulēna (Canada) that she read at the literary evening held in Toronto in January 1992 to honour the eightieth birthday of poet Velta Toma. Gulēna's poems are similar to Latvian folk songs: she often uses life's trivia (a cup of coffee, the return of an unread book of poetry, freshly washed linens on a line) subtly and quietly to reveal a deeper insight. We have a poem by Jānis Baltauss (Latvia) describing the current uncertainty of life in Latvia, and one by Juris Cīrulis (Latvia) where he dreams of going to New York, the new Babel, "where one can climb to heaven or descend into hell for a mere penny without a passport." We have poems in memory of Viktors Neimanis, by Roberts Mūks, Gunars Saliņš, Rita Gāle, Elga Leja and Nikolajs Kalniņš. Finally, Aina Kraujiete, Neimanis' widow and JG poetry editor, has contributed poems from her series on Orpheus and Euridice, as well as two poems about meeting two women whom at first she doesn't recognize, but as she nears them, realizes that the strangers are herself: the first in youth and the second in old age.

Juris Silenieks in his essay describes some major themes in Aina Kraujiete's poetry: New York City as a "topos par excellence", whose "obscene wealth, crushing poverty, absence of humanity yet human excess, ruthlessness and beauty, vulgarity and refinement, nearness and abandonment form the centre of [Kraujiete's] world", her playing with shadows and mirrors in a sometimes futile search for truth and her inner self, her reactions to the world and the cataclysms of the twentieth century, and her frequent allusions to other poets, painters and intellectuals. Silenieks acknowledges Kraujiete's poetry as difficult: its meaning does not lie on the surface and demands a certain intellectual effort; her poems are not emotionally loaded, and do not lend themselves to a definitive interpretation, but allow the reader to come to conclusions that may not be in harmony with each other.

Veronika Janelsiņa (USA) has contributed a writer's inner dialogue, debating the merits of the Latvian diminutive form in literature. The debate and the topic seem absurd, but beneath the absurdity Janelsiņa raises some valid questions about Latvian literature. Māra Gulēna describes her experiences participating in an archaeological dig in an ancient Egyptian grave, and the contrasts between the Egyptian view of death and ours, where death is to be avoided at all costs.

Velta Rūke-Draviņa deals with language in literature in two articles: the first examines three translations of Selma Lagerlev's Legends of Christ into Latvian: Kārlis Štrāls' (1927), Alma Gobniece's (1937) and Lizete Skalbe's (1953); the second describes the use of old forms of Latvian as a literary device in Ilona Leimane's classic novel Vilkaču mantiniece (The Heiress of Vilkači) (1943).

Playwright and artist Raimonds Staprāns has contributed an essay on Ivars Hiršs, the son of Roberts and Alma Hiršs, one of the wealthiest families of pre-war Latvia. Hiršs' father was deeply disappointed that Ivars chose to become an artist instead of a businessman, and Ivars' homosexuality caused a breach between them. Ivars, after a promising career in graphics and several successful shows in the late 1960s and early 1970s, gradually stopped working in art, settling down to domesticity in San Francisco with his lover, Robert Gottesleben. Hiršs was an alcoholic, which eventually ruined his health and led to his death in 1989. Staprāns also contributes an interesting interview with Robert Gottesleben.

Andrievs Ezergailis observes that certain views, promulgated by now-defunct imperialistic regimes, are still seen in the popular press, namely that "Balts are fascists" and "Jews are communists." Analyzing the origins of these views in their current form, Ezergailis looks at Marx's dialectics, Lenin's belief that a new society can be formed through force, and some of the newest literature about political developments in the Baltic, including Anatole Lieven's The Baltic Revolution. Juris Mazutis expresses his concern about the vast influence of organized crime in Boris Yeltsin's Russia, as well as other parts of the former Soviet Union, concluding that this may well arrest the development of democracy and a free market economy in these countries. Viktors Neimanis, in one of the last programmes he prepared for Radio Free Europe, describes the sadness and irony of the 25'th anniversary of Latvia's independence on Nov. 18, 1943, when Latvia was under German occupation and Latvians were being conscripted into the Waffen SS to help shore up Hitler's eastern front.

Līvija Volkova edits and comments on six letters sent to Rūdolfs Blaumanis by his close friend, Maria von Andrejanoff. Blaumanis' replies to von Andrejanoff have been lost, but their discovery would be invaluable to literary historians. We have the conclusion of J. Torgāne's article on the great actress Anta Klints. Our book section is especially rich in this issue, with seven reviewers writing about eight books and the literary annual Varavīksne. Among the authors reviewed are Dzintars Sodums, Aina Vāvere, Zigmunds Skujiņš, Visvaldis Lāms and Rimants Ziedonis. Imants Zilberts has contributed four political cartoons to this issue, while Voldemārs Avens contributed the cover art. The frontispiece is by Ivars Hiršs.


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