Jaunā Gaita nr. 202, septembris 1995

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JG 202

A central theme of JG 202 is the rejuvenation of Latvian prose after World War II. Mārtiņš Lasmanis (Sweden) analyses the innovations in subject matter and form that were seen in the 1960s, mainly in exile literature. Lasmanis concludes that these were the result of the influence of developments in Western literature on young Latvian authors, and that gradual evolution is more characteristic of Latvian prose in this period than radical change. The first major sign of change was Dzintars Sodums' translation of James Joyce's Ulysses in 1960. Jaunā Gaita provided a forum for young authors during this period, and the Jaunsudrabiņš literary prize sponsored by Jaunā Gaita gave public recognition to authors such as Ilze Šķipsna, Andrejs Irbe and Benita Veisberga. Lasmanis also looks at the work of Guntis Zariņš, Aivars Ruņģis, Tālivaldis Ķiķauka and Richards Rīdzinieks.

Ildze Kronta (Latvia) in her article on the Gerkens-Karogs literary prize now established in Latvia, characterizes the cultural situation in Latvia as " ... a strange time ... Latvian literature, poetry, prose, drama are swamped by the colourful commercial press, yet certain basic values remain." Kronta believes that the best literature during the Soviet period was that which reinforced human values, and that such reinforcement is even more essential now, when Latvians' respect for and belief in their cultural identity are being severely undermined by the marketplace's seeming denial of this identity and its values. In her view, the Gerkens-Karogs literary contest supports not only literature but Latvian identity as well. The winner (out of 51 entries) of the second contest in 1994, Juris Rozītis (Sweden), in his acceptance speech thanked the jurors for recognizing his "dialect", that is, exile Latvian, as a legitimate part of the Latvian language.

The prose section has work by Tālivaldis Ķiķauka (Canada) and Gunars Bekmans (USA). Ķiķauka's story "The Anarchist" describes the cantankerous and obstreperous Askolds Ducis, whose first spoken word was "No!", thus beginning a life of opposition to authority and accepted wisdom. Bekmans' satire "RIX is only a question of time", subtitled "A TV play", describes the ensuing chaos when the Latvian army receives a shipment of training materials, a woman's furniture suite, and a female sergeant by the name of Tammy O'Toole, who speaks perfect Latvian, from a US Marine base in California.

Knuts Skujenieks published his translation of the "Song of Solomon" in 1993. Jānis Krēsliņš (USA) has discovered an earlier translation of the poem, done during the 1950s by Raits Birkmanis (1917-1975) in Australia, while he was studying Hebrew. Birkmanis' translation is supplemented with a commentary by Krēsliņš and two other poems by Birkmanis.

Although Jānis Krēsliņš is a former JG poetry editor and usually appears on these pages as a poet, he is better-known outside Latvian circles as a historian and historical bibliographer. Andrievs Ezergailis' "Knots" column focuses on Jānis Krēsliņš' achievements as a historian, stressing that Krēsliņš' writings, which are scattered in the Latvian and American press, need to be gathered into book form in order to achieve their full impact. Two excerpts from Krēsliņš' historical writing supplement Ezergailis' article: one on the influence of the Moravian Brethren in Latvia and the other on the return of Latvian exiles to Latvia.

The well-known composer Pauls Dambis (Latvia) concludes his two-part article on Latvian music and composers since the Second World War Nikolajs Bulmanis writes about a young Latvian couple from North America who have returned to live in Latvia and their reasons for doing so. Anita Liepiņa reports on the scaling of Mount Everest by two climbers from Latvia. The sculptor of this issue's frontispiece, Juta Savage, likes to use broken shards of her pottery in her sculpture for two reasons: to reuse something that might normally be discarded, and as metaphors of the contradictions, doubts and accidents that are part of everyone's life. The poetry section has work by Baiba Bičole (USA), Lidija Dombrovska (Australia) and Lolita Gulbe (Canada).

The book section has reviews of novels by Indra Gubiņa and Aina Zemdega (both living in Canada) and Melānija Vanaga (Latvia), reviewed by Juris Silenieks and Biruta Sūrmane (both living in the USA). Indulis Kažociņš (England) discusses in detail a volume compiled in Sweden by Leonids Siliņš, describing the activities of the Latvian Central Council. The Council was formed in 1943 during the Nazi occupation of Latvia by Konstantins Čakste, the son of Latvia's first president, and Bruno Kalniņš, the leader of the Latvian Socialist party, as a clandestine organization of the major political parties of Latvia with the aim of preparing for an independent Latvia after the war and organizing opposition to the Nazi and Soviet occupations. Leonids Siliņš worked with the Council from its inception and participated in setting up the Council's contacts with Sweden. The Council was able to establish links with Latvian diplomats and foreign governments, especially the British and Swedish governments, but was unable to make itself known, let alone organize opposition, among Latvians themselves. The Council's activity was curtailed by the arrest of Konstantins Čakste and his death in a German concentration camp. Besides a 112-page summary of the events leading up to the Council's formation by the late prof. Edgars Andersons, the book contains a great deal of factual material that has never been published and will be of great value to historians of the second World War.

Our press survey notes the death of poet Veronika Strēlerte, who spent her exile years in Sweden, the presentation of one of Latvia's highest honours, the Order of Three Stars, to poet Velta Toma, who has lived in Canada since the second World War, and the highly successful Youth Song and Dance Festival in Latvia this summer. The cover is by Voldemārs Avens (USA), who will be taking over the duties of JG art editor, and who is well-known to our readers as both a painter and a poet. Imants Zilberts has contributed three timely and witty visual comments on events in Latvia.

L.Z., J.Z

Jaunā Gaita