Jaunā Gaita nr. 105, 1975

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JG 105

One of the most important works ever published by Jaunā Gaita was Uldis Ģērmanis' monograph The Commander from Zemgale, wich appeared in issues 76 - 90. Ģērmanis' monumental study of the career of Jukums Vācietis, the Latvian colonel who became the first commander-in-chief of the Red Army, and the role of the red Latvian riflemen in the Russian Revolution broke new ground in Latvian historiography and brought to public attention many controversial events and documents from archives all over Europe that had never been examined and analyzed before. The work earned Ģērmanis his doctorate at the University of Stockholm and has also been published in German. Ģērmanis is also the author of poetry, satire, and several travel memoirs whose "new journalistic " style makes them, so far, unique in Latvian literature; in this issue Andrievs Ezergailis examines Ģērmanis' total oeuvre, but emphasizes his historical writings. In Ezergailis' opinion, Ģērmanis is a narrative historian - to some extent, even a popularizer - in the tradition of Jules Michelet, with only a slight tendency toward the didactic and analytical, and none at all toward the philosophical approach to historical scholarship. Ezergailis also sees an epic quality in Ģērmanis' work (portrayal of a figure of heroic proportions against the background of momentous events affecting entire nations and peoples), and asserts that Ģērmanis' profound and unforced patriotism is the root cause not only of the controversy that often surrounds him, but also the basis of his achievements.

Aleksandrs Čaks, the first truly urban-oriented Latvian poet, died 25 years ago; controversial during the pre-World War II years, later his creative genius (and his life) destroyed by the socialist regime whose cause he had espoused, he continues to exert an influence on many poets both in Latvia and in exile. In this issue Edīte Zuzena examines three of his longer poetic works - Epic of the Couchman, Umurkumurs, and Those Touched by Eternity (see also Gunars Saliņš' elaborate analysis of Matīss, Prince of Drunkards in JG 98). Zuzena concludes that Čaks uses the old hackie (with whom the poet finds such affinity) as a symbol for mourning the passing of old attitudes toward life despised by modern civilization; that Umurkumurs, which describes a vulgar pole-climbing contest at a turn-of-thecentury fair, is really a statement about the lot of the artist, despised in life but appreciated only after death; and that the tribute to the riflemen of World War I in Those touched by Eternity - "who are no longer and whose like the world will never see again" - is a plea for everyone to become totally committed, thus touching eternity.

Visvaldis Bokalders traces the artistic development of Jāzeps Grosvalds (1891-1920) evidenced in some 220 drawings executed during 1915-1920. Grosvalds was an individualist who did not follow the fashions of his time - surrealism futurism, abstract experimentation - however, whether portraying soldiers in ditches during the battle of Rīga, or the Arabs and Kurds he saw during his Middle Eastern sojourn, he always tried to adapt his composition to the mood of the scene and finally attained an efortless style of great virtuosity.

Zīle Zichmane contributes an interview with flamenco guitarist Andris Kārkliņš known as André el Leton." Kārkliņš (also the author of five unpublished books and a poet who experiments with Haiku in Latvian) talks about his attitude toward his music, his guitar studies among the Spanish gypsies, and also touches upon the insoluble problem of various expressive qualities of different languages.

In JG 100 and 101, Valda Melngaile, analyzing the experimental quality of some recent Latvian poetry, cited examples from three of the poets represented in this issue - Juris Kronbergs, Juris Mazutis, and Voldemārs Avens. The infatuation with images, sounds, and impressions that, at first glance, seem to have no logical connection is most evident in Avens' „summer vision," Kronbergs' „Longing," and Mazutis' untitled poem about life's preposterous race. Meaning grows out of image and the dominant mood is cynicism and despair. Olģerts Cakars is nostalgic and romantic, while Herta Krauja and Gundars Pļavkalns try to transcend the borderline between two arts - poetry and painting - not only by specific references to painting, but also by transforming their poems into word-pictures. Pļavkalns' „Elegy" blends visual, auditory, and tactile sense impressions with emotion (resignation and puzzlement) and intellect (sense of history).

Irēne Blūmfelde transforms a foolish plot into a work of art by ingenious changes of the narrative voice and juxtaposition of past and present. Past and present - and the impossibility of ever understanding and evaluating another person - are the themes of Richards Rīdzinieks' "Odums' Death," and past and present - which are really the same - are summed up by Dzintars Freimanis in „Minutes" - „Your coffee grows cold"...


Ilze Šķipsna - prose writer par excellence.

In this issue Modris Zeberiņš examines with interpretative originality some of Šķipsna's work.

Jaunā Gaita