Jaunā Gaita Nr. 199, decembris 1994

JG 199

In the last six months we have been saddened by the deaths of four of Jaunā Gaita's authors and editors - Ilze Šedriks-Levis, Valdis Krāslavietis, Modris Zeberiņš and Valda Dreimane-Melngaile. All four lived in the United States. In this issue we publish Modris Zeberiņš' last prose work, describing his final illness. The piece starts with the question: "Is it possible to have a simple, naive, genuine, honest approach to the realization: I have cancer?" Zeberiņš (1923-1994) was an important novelist and influence on Latvian culture in exile. Even after his doctor tells him that he has two cancers, one in his colon and the other in his liver, Zeberiņš continues to write and paint. His piece in this issue seems to establish a new relationship between the writer and reader, informing the reader of the most intimate details of his physical condition. Zeberiņš maintains his sense of humour, albeit rather black, throughout the piece, despite his emotional and physical suffering, and demonstrates the ageless need for truth in life and art. Inta Ezergailis (Cornell University, USA) introduces Zeberiņš' piece with a short memoir where she quotes Rainer Maria Rilke's character Malte: "For he was a poet and detested the approximate ... he was concerned with the truth."

Laima Kalniņa's (USA) short story "Again and again" also deals with death - that of an old woman, told from her own viewpoint. The woman is planning to die alone, experiencing vivid memories that reach ever more deeply into her childhood. As a little girl she is gazing through coloured glass verandah panels, but when she reaches the darkly tinted panel, her memory is strangely transformed. She sees an old woman in her own room - herself. In the enigmatic last scene, a young couple talks about reincarnation, introducing an astonishing final possibility. Laima Kalniņa's second story in this issue, "Sleep tells of life ...", vividly recounts a chance sexual encounter between strangers, whose overriding wish is personal satisfaction, to take but not necessarily to give.

Benita Veisberga's (USA) "Elegy" is a daughter's bittersweet expression of her love for her dying mother. Past quarrels fade away as the daughter observes the subtle changes in her mother as death draws near. The daughter drifts from childhood memories of Jelgava to a calm recognition of the possibility of beauty in death.

Aina Zemdega, who lives in Canada, in her story "the Return", describes an unnamed man and woman, who have returned to the place where they grew up, after decades apart. As they walk old paths full of memories, their old desire reawakens, but with a new edge of brutality. Another highlight in this issue is Veronika Janelsiņa's (USA) story permitting numerous interpretations, 'The Useless Soul".

Poetry in this issue is by Indra Gubiņa, Juris Mazutis, Māris Ķirsons (Canada), Rita Gāle, Roberts Laiviņš, Vilnis Baumanis (USA), Aleksandrs Pelēcis, Māra Zvaigzne and Valdis Voguls (Latvia). Laiviņš, Baumanis and Ķirsons appear for the first time in the poetry section.

Jānis Liepiņš (Latvia) responds to Mārtiņš Lasmanis' essay on Zenta Mauriņa in issue 193 of Jaunā Gaita, describing the many people who were deeply influenced by her work during the Soviet occupation of Latvia. An exception to this was the poet Elza Stērste, who felt that Mauriņa identified with German culture too strongly. Valentīns Pelēcis (USA) reminisces about the ways "bridges" were built in the political and cultural spheres between Latvians in exile and in Latvia in the years before Latvia regained its sovereignty.

Nikolajs Bulmanis (Canada) surveys the visual arts in Latvia during 1994. Even though many commercial galleries have opened in Latvia in the past two years, support for the arts has collapsed because of the disappearance of government funding, the departure of foreign buyers and the lack of interest in collecting art among wealthy Latvians.

Gunars Zvejnieks (Sweden) vividly recalls a shameful episode in Swedish history at the end of World War 11 - the forcible handover, on January 25, 1946, of 151 Latvians, Estonians and Lithuanians who had been illegal conscripts in the German armed forces, to the Soviet Union, despite hunger strikes, several suicides among the conscripts and widespread protests by the Swedish public. Those memories were finally laid to rest at a ceremony in Stockholm on June 20, 1994, when 40 survivors of the handover were honoured by King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden.

Mārtiņš Lasmanis (Sweden) reviews Indra Gubiņa's book about her travels in Greece, "On a donkey to the Acropolis", while Andrejs and Velta Holcmanis examine the 16-volume series on Latvian architectural and artistic monuments.

Jaunā Gaita congratulates novelist, poet, editor, essayist and intellectual gadfly Aivars Ruņģis (USA) on receiving the Anšlavs Eglītis memorial prize for literature in 1994, and poet Fricis Dziesma on his 75th anniversary of working in literature. Valentīns Pelēcis also contributes his thoughts on the condition of agriculture in Latvia, Māris Gailis, the prime minister of Latvia, promises to raise the salaries of Latvia's teachers, and Imants Zilberts illustrates recent events in Latvia in his unique style with three political cartoons.

The frontispiece is by Ojārs Šteiners and the cover is by Ilmārs Rumpēters.


L.Z., J.Z., I.V.

Jaunā Gaita