Jaunā Gaita nr. 226, septembris, 2001

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JG 226

As already noted, this year is the 800th anniversary of the founding of Rīga, and this month the celebrations are in full swing. Latvians have taken over Rīga as their own, but it was, in fact, controlled by Baltic Germans until World War I. In this issue prof. Maruta Ray examines the relationship between the Baltic Germans and the Latvians in published works of the past and present, and finds the Baltic German attitude toward the Latvians unchanged: negative and condescending at best, while the Latvian attitude toward the Baltic Germans has moved from loathing to understanding.

Rolfs Ekmanis summarizes the life and work of writer and painter Veronika Janelsiņa (1910-2001). Janelsiņa was the model for the character of the same name in the play Anšlavs and Veronika by Raimonds Staprāns which Jaunā Gaita published last year. Even though Janelsiņa did not appreciate the play, she was a frequent contributor to JG, and her last contribution, called "Three Pages of Memories" (1999), is published in this issue.

Ojārs Krātiņš discusses another recent play by Raimonds Staprāns, Nerve Endings, and its effect on the audience. The play is a comedy about sexual relations (or the lack thereof) between a man and his wife, with the husband's impending operation for prostate cancer providing the setting for an exploration of a topic that is familiar but often unsettling.

Benita Veisberga, one of the finest prose writers of the generation that fled from Latvia as children in the Second World War, contributes a meditation on the life of a doomed eucalyptus tree in her neighbour's garden and her own fate in 1944, when her family left Jelgava for what they thought was a brief sojourn in rural Kurzeme until the war ended.

Vilnis Zaļkalns is a complete child of the Latvian exile community - born and raised in the DP camps of Germany, educated at the fulltime Latvian school in Munster, Germany, active in the European Latvian Youth Association and the Latvian Social Democratic Party in exile in Stockholm, president of the Latvian publishing firm Memento, publisher of the humour magazine Rūgtais Apīnis, organizer of youth congresses, the Baltic Freedom Cruise, and many other high points of the Latvian exile community's history. Zaļkalns gives a fascinating and wide-ranging interview to JG editor-in-chief Rolfs Ekmanis.

Valdemārs Ancītis provides a wryly humourous look at what was happening on the other side of the Iron Curtain during the years Zaļkalns was growing up in his brief memoir "In the Elevator", about a summons to the secret police headquarters in Rīga.

Laimonis Mieriņš discusses several important art shows in Rīga this past spring. Tonija Krūka writes a tribute to a friend of hers, the late music editor of Jaunā Gaita, lmants Sakss, who died ten years ago, while Gunārs Gulbis outlines the life and achievements of the great youth choir conductor Jānis Milzarājs (1987 - 1983).

Political themes in this issue are covered by Frank Gordon, who discusses the unlikely political bedfellows Avram Shmulevich and Alexander Dugin, Russian Jews who live in Israel, and by Juris Žagariņš, who has compiled a discussion from the Internet group Sveiks about the movement for change in the Latvian parliamentary election law to make the Saeima more representative and responsible to the electors.

Poetry in this issue is by Rita Gāle, who lives in the USA, Jānis Elsbergs, who lives in Rīga, and Marta Landmane, who lives in Britain. Elsbergs has also used the pseudonym Jānis Ramba for his poetry, including works published in JG.

Juris Silenieks examines recently published books by three authors who are associated with the literary magazine Luna: Amanda Aizpuriete, Inga Ābele and Irbe Treile. Silenieks also reviews Jānis Elsbergs' poetry collection, Daugava Boulevard. Aina Siksna reviews a book by Jānis Vēveris Parent Language. Anita Liepiņa discusses the monograph The Mythical in Folklore, Literature, Art by prof. Janīna Kursīte, and concludes that this work, inspiring as it is, is by no means the last word on this very extensive topic. Rolfs Ekmanis reviews Kurzeme in Past Times, by prof. Kārlis Draviņš, who worked on this book for 60 years. It contains descriptions and memoirs of every conceivable aspect of life and history in this area. Dr. Ekmanis also reviews the memoirs of Jānis Liepiņš, a fierce critic of Latvian cultural scene before and after the collapse of the USSR.

Art photographer Jānis Nollendorfs has contibuted a striking picture of Latvia's Kitten Lake on page 37. Maris Bishofs' drawings can be found on pages 29, 31, 53 and 57. The cover of this issue is by Haralds Norītis and the color reproduction of the painting on page 32 is by Lelde Kalmīte.

Ilze Valdmanis

Jaunā Gaita