Jaunā Gaita nr. 203, decembris 1995

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JG 203

Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga, best known to readers of Jaunā Gaita as a social critic and analyst of the psychology of exile, appears here in her guise as a scholar of Latvian folksongs or dainas. A professor of psychology at L'Universite de Montreal and coauthor of the computerized corpus of Latvian Sun-songs, she presents here a chapter from her forthcoming book, The Sun, this world, and the next, written while she was holder of a Killam Research Fellowship. In this chapter, the feminine sun, Saule, is presented as the major reference point in an ancient cosmological dichotomy between "this sun", the world of the living, and "the other sun", the world of the dead, from which Saule is the only one ever to return. Evidence from a variety of sources reveals Saule in her sacred role as psychopompos, who takes the souls of those interred each day, to lead them each evening into the netherworld along 'the path of the sun". Traditional Latvian burial customs and taboos, as well as the celebration of sunset as sacred, are interpreted as the relics of a genuine cult of the Sun, a conclusion that may be unacceptable to some.

This issue has the first of two instalments of a tribute by Valters Nollendorfs to his friend and colleague, the late Estonian poet Ivar Ivask. The essay is written as a "meditative letter" about Ivask's Baltic Elegies, which Nollendorfs translated into Latvian (JG 171 and 181). It is based on a lecture he gave at the 14th Conference on Baltic Studies (published in the Journal of Baltic Studies vol. 26. #2, 1995) and places the poems in the broader context of Baltic studies and ethnicity, world literature, Ivask's own life and work - as Ivask's "infinite landscapes" in language.

Mirdza Krastiņa (Sweden) illustrates the influence of politics on scholarship, commenting on a study of Slavic place names in Mecklenburg and Holstein by Reinhold Trautmann, in which the author deliberately omits any reference to the Baltic languages. In spite of being omitted from written history, the Balts cling tenaciously to their place in it.

A story by Gunars Bekmans (USA) portrays two different periods in time and the choices a Latvian has to make to affirm his existence. Pēteris Tretjakovs (Latvia) makes his debut in JG with a story about reconciliation: a man returns in spring from self-imposed exile as a stranger to his home.

In our poetry section Inese Baļķīte-Račevska (USA) delights in the richness of summer, as it is experienced by a child. Indra Gubiņa (Canada) describes the ruins of her family farm in Latvia, while Pēters Brūveris (Latvia) concludes: "the days of poetry have ended". Margita Gūtmane (Germany) contributes poignant vignettes of her mother's death. Dagmāra Igale's (USA) vision stretches from antiquity to the shores of the river Daugava today, while Pēteris Zirnītis' (Latvia) work has a classical vision of destiny. Andrejs Irbe (Sweden) touches a troubling theme too rarely honestly examined in Latvian literature, describing the memories of a participant in Nazi atrocities during World War II.

According to Andrievs Ezergailis, the press and the Latvian intelligentsia did not fulfill the duties of a watchdog for the democratic process in the recent Latvian election, as would be expected of them in a well-established democracy. In Ezergailis' opinion, certain parties and their leaders received a much less critical appraisal than they deserved. An interview with Baiba Pētersone, a leading figure in the conservative and nationalist LNNK party, analyzes post-Soviet politics in Latvia.

Nikolajs Bulmanis reports on three recent cultural events in Latvia: the opening of Olegs Tillbergs' exhibition at the Arsenal Art Museum, the annual series of post-modern art in the open air at Pedvāle, featuring installations, constructions and murals, and the 80'th birthday celebration of Dr. Uldis Ģērmanis, an iconoclastic historian and uncompromising critic of the Soviet regime in Latvia. Bulmanis also raises the problem of exile Latvian art donated to Latvian institutions - not all of it is of high quality, but how should a selection be done?

Gunta Plostniece has nothing but praise for the American concert tour of three young Latvian opera singers, Inga Kalns, Karmena Radovska and Miervaldis Jenčs, along with their excellent pianist Laila Holbergs.

Juris Silenieks discusses Benita Veisberga's latest book, the Book of Exile, where the author meditates about present-day life in California, contrasted with memories of pre-war Jelgava. Silenieks concludes that the book confirms Veisberga's place among the best Latvian prose writers.

Three long-time contributors to Jaunā Gaita have been recently honoured in Latvia: Dr. Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga received the medal of the Order of Three Stars, Dr. Pāvils Vasariņš received an honourary doctorate from the Latvian Medical Academy, and Laimonis Mieriņš was honoured with a retrospective exhibition of his paintings in the Latvian State Museum of Art. This exhibition was also seen in Cartwright Hall, Bradford, England, and in the Foyer Galleries in London. The frontispiece of this issue is a drawing of a nude by Laimonis Mieriņš, reproduced from the catalogue of his retrospective exhibition. On pg. 45 is a reproduction of a poster by Laimonis Šēnbergs, and the cover is by Ilmārs Rumpēters.

J.Z., L.Z.

Jaunā Gaita