Jaunā Gaita nr. 130, 1980. g. 4. numurs

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JG 130


This issue begins and ends with meditations on Latvian culture. In the lead article contributing editor Kārlis Ābele continues his series of surveys of Latvian cultural life in exile. Reviewing festivals, exhibitions, productions, recitals and readings that took place on three continents during 1979, Ābele finds that it was a fertile year for Latvian music, drama, literature and the visual arts. This issue closes with two short items which demonstrate the attitude that has maintained the Latvian people's sense of their abilities. Despite a disappointing start, Dainis Kūla went on to win a gold medal in the javelin throw at the 1980 Olympics. His achievement illustrates a theme stressed by Uldis Grava in an address to the participants in the 2X2 summer camp. We must promote confidence rather than fear, says Grava, and Kūla shows that this spirit is just as alive in Soviet Latvia as it is in exile Latvian society.

The Latvian theatre is the more specific focus of a number of articles in this issue. Bastards, an innovative play by Soviet Latvian Pēteris Pētersons, is the subject of Baņuta Rubesa's essay, "In Rīga's Theatres". Pētersons' play was one of the most successful, both critically and popularly, of the 1979 season in Rīga. Rubesa discusses its cast and production, its relationship to Petersons' earlier work, particularly Spēlē, Spēlmani! (Play, Player!, 1972), and its contrasts with a very traditional production of the Latvian classic Mērnieku laiki (The Time of the Surveyors), which was coolly received by the audience. Ilze Šedrika-Levis also focuses on a single play in „Ancient Tragedy and Modern Pessimism in Raimonds Staprāns' Play, Sasalšana (Freezing)." Sasalšana has been called experimental, despite its classical style and structure. Šedrika-Levis contends, because it deals with sexual and existential themes. She analyzes its similarities with Aeschylus' Agamemnon but shows also that its concern with self-imprisonment, frigidity, and impotence makes it comparable to works by Jean-Paul Sartre and Samuel Beckett. Juris Freijs reviews the San Francisco Small Drama Troupe's guest production of Sasalšana in Toronto. New contributing editor Ņina Luce provides an account of the very successful 20th Australian Latvian Drama Festival in Sidney. She assesses the productions of Bezkaunīgie veči (Shameless Fellows) and Ferdinands un Sibila by Anšlavs Eglītis, Viesis (The Guest) by Miervaldis Bumbieris and Kamīnā klusu dzied vējš (The Wind Sinqs Softly in the Fireplace) by Harijs Gulbis.

Also in this issue is a long review by L. Smilškalns of Valdis Mežezers' The Herrnhuterian Pietism in the Baltic and its Outreach into America and Elsewhere in the World. Smilškalns is scathing, as well he might be, since Mežezers' book seems to be largely plagiarized from Ludvigs Adamovičs' Vidzemes baznīca un latviešu zemnieks 1710-1740 (The Church in Vidzeme and the Latvian Peasant 1710-1740, 1933). Mežezers' only original contributions are inaccuracies, and his intent seems to be to enlist the sympathies of his English-speaking readers against the „wrongs" done him by Latvian institutions and individuals.

Our symposium on "The Future of Socialism" continues with essays by Valentīns Pelēcis and Arvīds Melliņš. Pelēcis argues that neither Soviet communism nor American capitalism is an acceptable economic system. Instead, he favors the socialism of Iceland. Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Finland, and the socialism of the independent state of Latvia. Melliņš fixes on two versions of socialism, the utopian and the Soviet, and criticizes them for their unworkable economics and inadequate sense of history. He points out that the small capitalist element in the Soviet economy is also the most productive, despite the handicaps imposed on it.

In JG 126 we printed an article on demographic problems in Latvia by Soviet Latvian statistician Bruno Mežgailis, together with a critique by Juris Dreifelds. This issue contains another exchange between them. Mežgailis defends his earlier position, arguing that Dreifelds does not have an adequate understanding of scientific demography and that he is out of touch with Latvia and Latvian conditions. Dreifelds replies that Mežgailis is not adequately aware of the colonial status of the Latvian SSR and that the tide of Russian immigration into Latvia constitutes a genuine threat to Latvian language and culture.

In "Thinking about Lešinskis--III", Andrievs Ezergailis discusses the CHEKA, now a bureaucratized establishment like the security agencies of the West, though during 1918-19, when its leadership contained many Latvians, it was the extra-legal avant garde of revolutionary justice. Ezergailis argues that the CHEKA's involvement with the arts made it a force behind Latvia's cultural renaissance.

Nora Kūla gives some impressions of the wide variety of works presented at the 1980 Writers' Week of the Latvian Writers' Association (LARA). Mārtiņš Zandbergs describes the resolutions adopted at the Fourth World Latvian Youth Congress on the use of the Latvian language.

In our literary section we have a short story by Jānis Klīdzējs, "A Biological Fact," in which a seventeen-year-old Latvian-American girl confesses to her father that she is "a little bit pregnant", and then brings her newly-wedded Mexican-American husband into a well-to-do exile Latvian household. As well, we have poetry by Valda Dreimane. Maija Meirāne, Erna Ķikure. Valda Mora, Leons Briedis, Alma Bēne, Aina Kraujiete, Guna Ikona, Eduards Salna, and Andrejs Eglītis.


Jānis Svilpis

Jaunā Gaita