Jaunā Gaita nr. 247. decembris 2006

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JG 247


The two highlights of this issue are a translation of a section of the Koran and a new play dealing with modern Latvian history.

The Koran (qur'ān, i.e., reading or recitation) is regarded by the followers of Islam as the direct teaching of God to Mohammed. The poet and translator Uldis Bērziņš has been translating the Koran into Latvian for several years, after translating the poetic books of the Old Testament into Latvian. Mohammed, who called himself the messenger of God, received the text of the Koran from God via the angel Gabriel during the years 610-622 AD while in a trance-like state. Mohammed always maintained a sharp distinction between the words of God and his own sermons and sayings. Osman (574-656), the third Caliph, assigned Mohammed's secretary Said ibn Thabit the task of assembling the official Koran from the sayings, speeches, teachings, etc. of Mohammed. Of the 114 sections, or suras (sūrah), of the Koran, we have the honour of presenting Sura 26, titled The Poet, as translated by Uldis Bērziņš, in anticipation of the publication of the full Koran in Latvian.

Raimonds Staprāns has already published several plays in Jaunā Gaita dealing with Latvia's turbulent and tragic history in the 20th century. The first play published in JG was about the final days of Kārlis Ulmanis as president of Latvia before his arrest and deportation to the USSR in June 1940. In that play Ulmanis was the central character and was presented sympathetically. Staprāns' new play, published in this issue, is called Dr. Paula Kalniņa tiesāšana (The Trial of Dr. Pauls Kalniņš) and details the arrest and secret trial of the last president of the Latvian Saeima or Parliament before World War II as part of the infamous putsch organized by Ulmanis in May 1934 to destroy democracy in Latvia and to take over as its dictator. This time, Kārlis Ulmanis is definitely the villain - a characterization that is sure to cause controversy among Latvians, many of whom still hold Kārlis Ulmanis in the highest esteem.

Raimonds Staprāns, who lives in California, is also a painter par excellence, and one of his paintings, Box with a Red Line, is reproduced on page 21. Other artists featured in this issue are Ojārs Šteiners, whose painting Configuration with Blue is reproduced on page 48, and Jānis Zuntaks (1906 - 1985), whose birth centenary was celebrated in Riga this autumn with a major retrospective exhibition of his paintings and drawings, along with the publication of his biography, containing many reproductions of his work, by Māris Brancis.

After the war, Zuntaks lived in a refugee camp in Bavaria, then for a few years in Argentina before he moved to Toronto, Canada. Two art photographs by Ulvis Alberts are also reproduced (pp. 22 and 47).

Lia Šmite introduces us to a fascinating early feminist, Lou Andreas-Salomé, who was born in 1861 in St. Petersburg, Russia, but spent her adult life in Switzerland and Germany. One of the men in her life was Friedrich Nietzsche, of whom she wrote the first major biography. A long-standing lover and confidant was Rainer Maria Rilke, on whose life and poetry she had an immense influence. Andreas-Salomé met Sigmund Freud at the first Congress of Psychoanalysis in 1911 and spent some time as his student in Vienna, later setting up her own psychoanalytic practice in Göttingen.

Book reviews in this issue cover Anna Rancāne's latest book of poetry, Zīmes (Signs) (reviewed by Ilona Salceviča), and JG technical editor Juris Zommers' first book of poetry, Radību noslēpums (The Secret of Creation) (Sarma Muižniece Liepiņa). We have two reviews (by Aina Siksna and Lilita Zaļkalne) of the same book by Lars Peter Freden, a Swedish diplomatic representative in the Baltic republics from 1989 until August 27, 1991, when full diplomatic relations between Sweden and the now independent Baltic states were re-established. Both reviewers recommend that the book, written in Swedish, be translated into English so that it can reach a wider audience. Prof. Gundars Ķeniņš-King reports on the Journal of Baltic Studies (Summer 2006) and welcomes a new generation of German historians researching Baltic history.

Our contributing editor Juris Žagariņš provides a transcript of the Internet discussion group Sveiks discussing some statements made by Boris Yeltsin when he was in Rīga recently to accept the Latvian Order of Three Stars which was granted to him some years ago for his refusal to surrender to the putschists in Moscow (1991). Yeltsin doesn't accept that the fifty-year-long Soviet occupation of Latvia was also a Russian occupation.

Marta Landmane has written a short story that takes place during the first year of the Russian occupation (1940-1941) as well as the following four years under the Germans. We are printing the story's first installment.

The cover is by Jānis Ivsiņš.


Ilze Valdmane

Jaunā Gaita