Jaunā Gaita nr. 74, 1969

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JG 74

This issue of Jaunā Gaita may signal a new literary concern for the Latvian émigré community. It certainly will represent a turning point in the literary orientation of Jaunā Gaita. For the first time, the magazine has given almost all of its space to literature from Latvia or an analysis of it. During the last couple of years the admiration of Soviet Latvian poets and prose writers has been growing. Due to the lack of publicity and availability of Soviet Latvian literature its admirers had been confined to a small fold of litterateurs and scholars. This neglect has not been the making of the émigrés alone. There simply was not much good literature to be found. Even now, especially in prose, a devotee must sift through numerous socialist realist stories before finding one worthy of notice. The strictures of socialist realism, however, were not the sole problem of Soviet Latvian writers. It was also one of talent. The war practically stripped Latvia of its writers. They left their homeland, were sent to Siberia, or simply vanished. A new generation of writers have matured and if they continue and are allowed to continue on the present course, they promise to compete in vitality and significance of statement with the 1890-1914 era, the golden age of Latvian letters.

In the current issue we feature the first part of Rolfs Ekmanis' (Arizona State U.) study: „The Cultural Situation in Latvia- 1968." For the immediate future Ekmanis does not give a bright forecast: „It seems that Latvian progressive writers and artists under the new administrative pressure at least temporarily will need to write in accordance with inspiration by decree." Ekmanis sees 1968 as a crucial year because the Soviet ideologues have again begun to condemn individual writers by name, something they had not done for a number of years. The political problems of Latvian writers Ekmanis sees in the context of the Soviet Union at large. In this, he differs from some more ethnocentric scholars who recommend restraint of criticism lest praise condemn the liberated writers to Siberia. In this installment, Ekmanis reviews Soviet Latvian accomplishments in poetry, theater, and music. Patriotism and the quest for freedom are the special themes that Ekmanis singles out for analysis. The ethnocentric school of critics would regard Ekmanis' emphasis as unnecessary and false, instead recommending aesthetics as the key to understanding Soviet Latvian literature.

The most significant part of the current issue is a selection of Soviet Latvian short prose works selected and introduced by our editor O. Krātiņš (Berkeley, Calif.). All of the stories are by young Latvian prose writers - Egons Līvs „A Tale of Four Lives", Z. Skujiņš „Dreams", Alda Darbiņa „The Lemon Tree", and A. Jakubāns who is represented by two stories - „It began to Rain at Eleven Minutes past Four" and „It will Snow Tonight". All of these five tales are multifaceted personal statements. They are concerned with truth, beauty, and honesty. Gloom pervades these stories. However, the authors derive their effectiveness from a sudden dispersion of the gloom - almost like liberation. And yet this is done without succumbing to optimism. The Westem existentialist canons of aesthetics do not prepare one for these stories. The heroes always find an exit, even if it may not be a good one. The admiration of old things and wrinkled faces seems to be another preoccupation of the authors. Irony is ubiquitous in these stories, but it is of a mild variety, although it may have the potential to become the bitter sarcasm that we frequently find in Solzhenitsin and some Czech writings. Stylistically, the stories are not without innovation, though they are more traditional than their Western counterparts. Jakubāns and Darbiņa seem to be the more effective of the authors. They both are peculiar for their short and concentrated - telegraphic - sentences. On the basis of these stories, it is perhaps not too optimistic to predict that the future of Latvian letters may very well belong to prose rather than poetry as it is commonly held.

Our frequent contributor historian U. Ģērmaņis' (Stockholm) name appears twice in this issue. His book Blue Glass, Green Ice, which is an account of his visit to Latvia in 1966, is very favorably reviewed by A. Balodis. The reviewer also provides us with a scintillating interview with Ģērmanis, who talks about his impressions in Riga - literary and otherwise. Ģērmanis stresses the significance of scholarly and cultural contacts with Soviet Latvia, but he says: „Weak and emotionally injured people have nothing to search for in Riga".

Our editor G. Irbe's (Stockholm) review of recent works by three Soviet Latvian poets - I. Ziedonis, J. Peters, and I. Auziņš completes the contribution that this issue has gathered about life and letters in Soviet Latvia. Irbe is enthusiastic about the work of these poets and he concludes: "...we must recognize that here we are dealing with poetry that is serious and deep, written with a grasp that is personal, bold, and rich in nuances - poetry that moved along its own roads in the regions of contemporary world poetry that is crowded with roads".

Turning to literature in emigration, the reviewers of five books of poetry and two of prose find little to praise in them. J.Lelis (Washington, D.C.) who reviews the works of poets A. Balka, O. Jēgens, V. Kajaka, E. Tūters, and A. Zemdega finds the work of Kajaka and Zemdega to have promise, the work of Tūters and Jēgens professional but too journalistic, and that of Balka too old fashioned. I. Briedis (Australia) reviews the novels of A. Voitkus and S. Lazdiņa. M. Rozentāle (Minneapolis, Minn.) very glowingly reviews a Lithuanian playwright's, A. Landsbergis', play and two plays by Latvian M. Zīverts. The cover is by L. Mieriņš (Leeds, England).

Jaunā Gaita