Jaunā Gaita nr. 125, 1979

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JG 125

Much of this issue is taken up withconclusions. In the last issue we printed the first part of an interview with historian Andrievs Ezergailis; now we offer the second part, in which Ezergailis continues the optimistic tenor of his comments on contemporary Soviet Latvia. He describes what he calls a „pluralist" tendency toward flexibility in culture, economics, and, to a lesser extent, politics concluding that a return to Stalinist rigidity is highly unlikely. The russification that has aroused anxiety among exile Latvians is, he contends, misunderstood. In his view, the exiles have misconceived both the psychology of Soviet Latvians and also their own relationship to Latvia. In this connection, he offers some interesting comments on the writing of Latvian history, in the LSSR as well as in the West, and on the "victors' mentality" of the present Soviet Latvian leaders. He counsels the exiles to continue their work by maintaining their culture and demonstrating for social justice in Latvia, but he argues that they must rethink their ultimate goals--they must renounce their desire for national "liberation" and revenge, and they must learn instead to work for the good of Latvia as it exists today. They must show this good will at every level, through personal and professional contacts and through gestures such as donating Western--not merely exile Latvian--books to Latvian libraries, as well as through large-scale cultural contact and the representation of Latvian interests at international tribunals.

Rasma Šilde-Kārkliņa takes the other side of the russification debate in another article concluded from last issue. Here she discusses the linguistic politics whereby a majority of Latvians learn Russian, while a minority of Russians living in Latvia speak the local language; she touches also on the process of transculturation which is subverting Latvian tradition and historical identity under the pressure of large numbers of immigrants. Behind these phenomena, she argues, stand official policies that support "internationalism" and ethnic confluence for all the non-Russian peoples of the USSR. These factors, together with the low birthrate and the high rates of divorce and mixed marriage found among Latvians, indicate that russification is likely to continue unabated. The power to resist this lies mainly in the hands of the Soviet Latvians, although Šilde-Kārkliņa suggests that discussion of this problem outside the USSR will put useful pressure on Soviet leaders.

The conclusion of Marianna Ieviņa's "Introduction to the Centenary of Mērnieku laiki (The Time of the Surveyors)" continues her assessment of the feature film based on this Latvian classic. The historical realism.of the settings, the excellence of the acting, the film's fidelity to the novel, the tastefulness of the directing, and the attention to detail exhibited in almost every aspect of the production--all win her praise. She has reservations about the casting of some of the characters.

During April and May, 1979, five actors and actresses from the Academic Theatre in Rīga toured seven cities in the United States with a program of scenes from Latvian and world drama. Ilze Šedrika-Levis reports on their performance in Boston and Alfreds Straumanis on the one in San Francisco; both comment on the outstanding artistry that they saw on stage.

In what has become a regular feature, contributing editor Kārlis Ābele surveys Latvian cultural life during the past year. This is a valuable and informative guide to readings, exibitions, concerts and theatrical productions in North America, Europe, and Australia, and a veritable who's who of Latvian authors, artists, and performers.

Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga contributes a review article on a recent publication in Latvian folklore, Saules teiksma (The Legend of the Sun), edited by Arvīds Brastiņš. This is a collection of 1483 dainas (folksongs) dealing with the sun and other heavenly bodies.. Brastiņš has arranged them by subject using key words as his guide; he has glossed uncommon words and words borrowed from foreign languages; and he has provided interpretations of many obscure songs. Dr.Vīķe-Freiberga points out some editorial errors that will limit the scholarly usefulness of this compilation, but at the same time she praises it for making this important segment of Latvian folklore more accessible than ever before.

The literary section in this issue includes three short stories. Osvalds Lācis focuses on the silent figure of the family physician in "The Healer". This old man sits quietly at a wedding anniversary while his memory brings back to him incidents from the past in wich his healing has extended beyond the physical wellbeing of the couple who are celebrating twenty-five years of marriage; he has saved their marriage as well as their lives, though he can never tell them so. The story is told with an appropriately reticent irony. In a completely different vein, Laima Kalniņa recounts "Two Variants on the Birth of Cain", a fragment from a longer work. This experimental piece moves from the variants themselves, set in the timeless past of Hebrew myth, to a modern Eve in a large city, wondering what has become of the Serpent and dreading the inevitable second encounter with him. "Movements" by Ināra Cedriņa is a coolly, distantly told tale of a weekend in the country and two lovers.

Also in the literary section, we print works by a large number of poets--Voldemārs Avens, Roberts Mūks, Juris Zommers, Margita Gūtmane, Dzintars Rubenis, Teodors Tomsons, Mārtiņš Grants, Sarma Muižniece, Ojārs Vācietis, and Imants Ziedonis. The last two are among the best of Soviet Latvian writers; our selection here is taken from collections recently published in Rīga.

To round out this issue, we offer our usual features and departments.

The cover is by Ilmārs Rumpēters. The frontispiece is by Voldemārs Avens.


jānis Svilpis

Jaunā Gaita