Jaunā Gaita nr. 123, 1979

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JG 123

Sweden and the island of Gotland figure largely in this issue because of the Song Festival scheduled to take place there this summer. The literary section includes works by seven Swedish poets, and one poet and one prose author from Gotland. The sampling of Swedish poets ranges from Erik Johan Stagnelius (1793-1823) to Claes Anderson (b. 1937) and exhibits a variety of thernes and approaches. The selections from four of these poets share a tendency to witty conception, sardonic or satiric tone, and epigrammatic brevity. In the nine short lines of "In a Hole", Nicken Malmstrom (b. 1897) describes the situation of a dreamer confronted by reality. Hans Fors (b. 1933) uses fantasy to create strong images and subtle moods in "Cricket Tea" and "Chinese Conversation". A satire, "For the Fields of Fools", shows the sharp tongue of Lars Gustafsson (b. 1936); his other poem, "A Little Epigram", represents him peacefully working right next to several nests of wasps. Of Andersson's (b. 1937) two short, untitled pieces, one describes a snail's reflections on a jet airplane and the other comments on the perpetual dilemma of parcnts and children.

In a different vein, Stagnelius' "The Water Spirit" is reminiscent of William Blake. The spirit is interrupted while making joyful music by a boy who asks him why he plays and reminds him that he is not one of God's creatures. Seized by grief, he is sucked into his own pool, and he and his music disappear together. Bo Setterlind (b. 1923) is represented by four sections of his cycle "Poems of Gotland". "By Honger's Spring" looks into the clear water and finds there a metaphor for life and fate; "An Ancient House in Norland" is a haiku-like record of impressions; "A Town" is an urban, epiphany in which Setterlind sees a new Jerusalem in Gotland; and "St. John's Day" depicts a holy day in which all nature participates. Lars Hulden (b. 1926) describes a coastal man's meditations on the changefulness of the ocean in "The East Bothnian on the Sea"..

Gustaf Larsson (b. 1894), who writes in the ancient language of Gotland, is represented by a short, untitled nature lyric which we print in the original as well as in translation, Anna Kajsa Hallgard (b. 1915) writes about the semirural people of Gotland, and especially about the tragedies that occur as the young leave for the cities on the Swedish mainland. "The Tobacco Store Girl" tells one such story and tells it with powerful simplicity and sensitivity for character.

JG editor G. Irbe contributes "Once Ashore, They Wrote Poetry", a short account of the revival of Latvian verse among the exiles in Sweden during 1945 - 1950. The poems they published in the magazine, Daugava, and elsewhere dwelled in shock and pain on their recent experience. Their poetry later grew more astringent and realistic, but at the cost ot the force of expression that grew out of the immediacy of their grief.

Aina Zemdega's "If You Raise a Monument, Make it Such..." is a brief memoir of Latvian printer and publisher Jānis Abučs together with some selections from his letters to her. Abučs passed away in his adopted land, Sweden, where he was the force behind "Ziemeļblāzma Press".

Zemdega appears also in the literary section in this issue with a long poem, "Twenty Days and Nights on the Threshold of Eternity", a moving account of a death and a survivor's eventual resignation to it.

Andrejs Irbe, one of our translators, also contributcs two original poems, "The One Who Comes Back" and "Some Bog to Sleep In", The former concerns one who has nothing to come back to, and the latter contemplates the death of a wanderer

"Poetry's Roots in Dim Prehistory", the essay by G.A. Irbe which leads off this issue, rejects the view that Latvian poetry began with Juris Alunāns' first publication in 1856. The folksongs, the dainas, he contends, are the true roots of Latvian literature, even though their authorship is anonymous and they depend for their preservation on their "symbiosis with melody". Stretching back before Alunāns Irbe pictures a prehistory that we cannot penetrate, but that speaks to us in the living voice of poetry. Since this voice has survived through centuries of domination, Irbe regards it as the key to the preservation of Latvian culture in the present. He welcomes the tendency of Latvian poets all over the world to return to the dainas and borrow their music and precisely-chiselled form.

E. Riekstiņš gives us a retrospective account of the work of the Rīga Cinema Studio frorn its foundation to the present in "Latvian Cinematography in the Last Thirty Years". The Studio has an impressive record, releasing more films per year than are made in many countries larger and more populous than the Latvian SSR.

Also in this issue we print the first instalment of an important essay by the former head of the Bureau of Cultural Exchange of the Latvian SSR, Mr. Imants Lešinskis. Entitled „Between the Past and the Future: Some Reflections on the Fate of my Native Land," this article analyzes the factors affecting the attainment and loss of independence in Latvia and other former czarist territories.

Dr. A. Ezergailis' essay in the last issue has caused some controversy. In this issue we print a review of a recent novel, Faith (Ticība), by Eduards Freimanis, which sheds light on Latvian innocence and guilt during the war years.

The cover is by Ildze Irbe.


Jānis Svilpis

Jaunā Gaita