Jaunā Gaita nr. 71, 1968

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JG 71

If Latvia had remained free, she would be celebrating her 50th Day of Independence on November 18, 1968, just as Finland did on December 6, 1967. Under the prevailing political circumstances, this day will be celebrated only by Latvians in exile in the West. JG 71 marks it with a cover design (by Ilmārs Rumpēters, New Jersey, JG art director) and by grouping its contents around two main themes. One is Riga, the capital of Latvia, in its historic and future aspects; the other concerns the work of the youngest generation of poets.

In an interesting historic perspective on Riga as a cultural influence, Jānis Ķēniņš (Minneapolis) elucidates the importance of Richard Wagner's Riga years for the composer's artistic development. Ķēninš corroborates his hypothesis with an article by the Baltic German musicologist, Elmar Arro. Although Wagner spent only a relatively short time in Riga (1837-39), he composed there the opera Rienzi which is the acknowledged beginning of the ,,real Wagner". The indigenous Latvian culture made a lasting impression on Wagner. He witnessed its manifestations in the Midsummer festival. This ritual celebration of the mystery of life is unique to the Latvians. With its songs and ceremony it captured the imagination of Wagner and found its way into several of his works, notably Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg. Wagner's concept of musical drama as a synthesis of the arts (Gesamtkunstwerk) received the decisive impulse from this Latvian folk celebration.

An aspect of the political history of Riga is presented in the concluding installment of Dr. Andrievs Ezergailis' (Ithaca College) well-documented account „The Election of the Riga City Council in 1917."

A look at the future is taken by Sigurds Grava (Columbia University) in his article „What Will Riga be Like in the Year 2000?" He has followed urban planning in the Soviet Union, esp. Latvia. Although some aspects of it are classified information, he is able to project a fascinating view of Riga as it may look in three decades. He expresses his suprise that urban planning in the Soviet Union is still in its infancy. A general plan for Riga was formulated only in 1967; all previous building since 1945 has been entirely haphazard. Since WWII, Latvia has changed from an agrarian to an industrial country, faced with the concomitant problems of industrial building and transportation. Riga has kept its importance as the main center of industry, but the plan calls for decentralization and creation of new industrial towns. Riga now has over 690,000 inhabitants, with 1,000,000 seen as saturation point. The old part of Riga, going back to the Middle Ages, presents the most difficult but also the most challenging problem for the city planners. Dr. Grava assesses the projects as moving in the right direction, and points to the old parts of Tallinn and Vilnius as good examples. The center of Riga is to expand across the river Daugava, making use of its islands as recreational areas. The Pārdaugava bank will become part of the city with the addition of several important epicenters. As in the Soviet Union proper, building in Latvia has been concerned mainly with the acute shortage of living quarters. The idea of self-contained, architecturally unified housing developments is popular in the Soviet Union because it provides a basis for communal living. Riga already has several such new developments, and the latest, begun 1964 on the bank of Daugava, will house 70,000 people. Riga, one of the largest of European capitals by area, as well as one of the greenest, still has plenty of space for expansion. Dr.Grava commends the projected generous outdoor recreational areas throughout the expanding city.

The four poets: Marita Gūtmane (Germany), Pāvils Johansons, Juris Kronbergs (both Stockholm), and Jānis Peters (Riga) are still, except for Peters (b. 1940), in their early twenties and belong thus to the youngest generation. Their work augurs well for the continuation of Latvian poetic traditions in exile. Richards Rīdzinieks (b. 1925, living in Stockholm), author of a book of short stories, contributes a narrative poem in six parts, entitled „Six Cigarettes", which spotlights turning points in the poet's life.

JG 71 presents three prose works: a childhood memoir by Benita Veisberga (San Francisco) whose eagerly awaited first novel has just been published; a surrealistic sketch by Tālivaldis Ķiķauka (Hamilton, Ont.), author of two books of experimental prose; and an interpretation by Gunars (Andrejs) Irbe (Stockholm), himself one of the foremost prose writers in exile. He turns his attention to a documentary novel by the well-known Swedish writer Per Olov Enquist, Legionärerna, concerning the handing over of Baltic POWs by the Swedish government to the Soviet Union in 1945. The problem is a moral one, and is tied up with many other unresolved questions left to us as a legacy by WWII.

The poet Astrīde Ivaska reports on the Fourth International Writers' Reunion at Lahti, Finland, which she attended in June, 1968. Organized by the Eino Leino Society, these Reunions have become a unique meeting place for writers from East and West. Latvian writers were present for the first time. The opinions of writers representing the French roman nouveau clashed with those of the socialistically orientated young Scandinavians, but were seconded - by a surprising turn of the tide - by writers from Soviet satellite countries. The subsequent developments in Czechoslovakia have made another reunion of this kind doubtful.

The Echoes department focuses on an ancient musical instrument that has had an astonishing rebirth - the Latvian kokle.

The frontispiece is by Visvaldis Reinholds (Colingwood, Ont.), a graduate of the Ontario College of Art.

Jaunā Gaita