Jaunā Gaita nr. 234, septembris 2003

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JG 234

Our poetry section consists of translations of poems by Rainer Maria Rilke, Adam Zagajewski, May Swenson and Lidija Šimkute. Šimkute spent part of her childhood in refugee camps in Germany and has lived for many years in Australia. She writes in both Lithuanian and English, and her work has been published in Lithuania since 1982. A prose piece about a woman returning for a visit to her home town with her new partner is contributed by Zinta Aistara who writes both in Latvian and English.

Prof. Maruta Lietiņa Ray begins her essay on Latvian folklore with the observation that there is nothing in the historical annals written by Latvians about Latvians before the middle of the 19th century. However, Latvian folksongs, the dainas, are a rich source of first-hand information about Latvians prior to that time. Ray eloquently illustrates this with many examples of songs about life as a peasant serf in Latvia. Tadeušs Puisāns contrasts the pagan Latvian image of God with the Christian one and asks why it took more than 500 years for the Christian God to be adopted by Latvians. The reason, according to Puisāns, is that we were not introduced to Jesus as the protector of the poor and helpless until late in the 18th century. Until then, Christianity was harshly imposed by the ruling class and their God was seen as a cruel foreign taskmaster. Aija Veldre Beldava and Juris Žagariņš have a lively discussion about the legacy of Krišjānis Barons, the great collector and cataloguer of the Latvian dainas.

Psychiatrist and writer Aina Siksna broaches a subject that has hitherto been taboo, the possible homosexuality of one of Latvia's greatest and best-loved authors, Rūdolfs Blaumanis, by examining Blaumanis' story Tur, kur neviens nav bijis (There, Where No One Has Ever Been).

Marianna Ieviņa enthusiastically describes the literary almanac, Seņču kalendārs, produced and largely written by Valdemārs Ancītis since 1991. Dr. Aija Janelsiņa-Priedīte celebrates the long and productive life of linguist Velta Rūke-Draviņa (1917-2003), who established Baltic studies at the University of Stockholm.

Valdonis Frickauss describes the career of the almost-forgotten first commander of the Latvian Army, Gen. Dāvids Sīmansons. Egīls Venters compares the roles of Jews and Latvians as they appear in Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's recent book Two Hundred Years Together: 1795-1995.

We have a rich collection of book and periodical reviews in this issue. Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga, the current President of Latvia, is continuing her series of monographs about the sun- in the Latvian dines. Prof. Lalita Muižniece reviews the latest volume of this series Meteoroloģiskā saule. Siltā saule (Meteorological Sun. Warm Sun). Prof. Ojārs Krātiņš reviews Noklīduša Torņkalna puikas dziesmiņas (Songs of a Wandering Lad from Torņakalns), a selection of the poems of Ivars Lindbergs. Biruta Sūrmane admires Ēriks Lanss' collection of short stories, Debesu balsinātāji (Heaven's Whitewashers). Dzidra Purmale compares Marta Landmane's latest poetry collection Krustām šķērsām (Crisscrossed) with a well-aged wine. Prof. Inta Ezergaile discusses two recent collections of Latvian literature in German and English translation. Franks Gordons reviews two publications issued by the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia. Prof. Ķeniņš Kings summarizes a recent issue of the Journal of Baltic Studies, which is the only academic journal in the field of Baltic studies that is published in English and German. Prof. Rolfs Ekmanis reviews the latest edition of Latvian Literature, an English-language periodical specializing in the translation of Latvian authors. Finally, Prof. Juris Silenieks discusses Māris Čaklais' biography of the renowned Latvian architect Gunars Birkerts, who presently resides in the U.S.

Laimonis Mieriņš reviews the Titian exhibition at the National Gallery, London (02/1905/18/2003). Some works of the Italian Renaissance painter, as well as those of Maira Reinberga, Ieva Tatarsky and Ulvis Alberts, are reproduced in this issue. Haralds Norītis did the cover art.

Ilze Valdmane

Jaunā Gaita