Jaunā Gaita nr. 153, augusts 1985

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JG 153

1985 has been declared the "year of Krišjānis Barons" All Latvians, even the youngest school-child, will probably be participating in some aspect of the sesquicentennial of Krišjānis Barons' birth.

Barons' immortal achievement was the gathering, compiling, and publishing of the first comprehensive collection of dainas, or folksongs, between 1878, when he began his work, and 1915, when the last volume of the six-volume collection was published in St. Petersburg. The six volumes of the dainas held 35,789 typesongs and 182,000 variants that Barons had compiled and classified. (For non-Latvian readers, Vaira Vīķe-Freibergs' article "The Poetic Imagination of the Latvian Dainas", Mosaic, 1973, VI 14, pp. 209-221, provides an excellent introduction to the dainas.) Three of our authors deal with the dainas and their "father" in this issue. Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga provides an overview of Barons' work on the dainas.

Maija Meirāne contributes a poem dedicated to Barons, comparing him to a beekeeper whose "eyes belong to the bees", while Velta Rūķe-Draviņa discusses aspects of the symbolism of the bird-cherry tree (prunus padus) as found in the dainas.

Velta Rūķe-Draviņa's article in JG 152, about Latvian orthographies in use in Latvia and in exile, has drawn opposition from Eduards Silkalns; the editors of JG invite writers, linguists, and readers of JG to express their opinions on this topic, in response to Prof. Rūķe-Draviņa's and Silkalns' views.

Former KGB major and chairman of the "Latvian Society for Cultural Relations with Latvians in Foreign Countries", Imants Lešinskis, defected to the United States several years ago. Since then he has appeared as a lecturer on current Latvian affairs in many exile communities and published memoirs of his work for the KGB in the exile newspaper Laiks. Unfortunately, his statements have aroused so much controversy that, as Andrievs Ezergailis points out in his "Knots" column in this issue, "we shouldn't be surprised if sometime in the future Lešinskis' former organization awards him a gold medal." Ezergailis feels that we have no facts to prove that Lešinskis is a Soviet agent provocateur, but that the results of his work in exile so far lead to the conclusion that Lešinskis may have been a better servant of his people when, as a KGB major, his job was to spread lies about exile Latvians, than he is now, when as a free citizen he is telling us the "truth".

Not much is heard, either in Latvia or in the exile community, about the extermination of Latvian Jews during the German occupation of the Second World War. What little information we have has come from the Jewish survivors. One such is Frieda Michelson; whose memoir I Survived Rumbuli (Holocaust Library, New York, 1979) is reviewed by Andrievs Ezergailis in this issue. Michelson survived the 1941 massacre of Jews at Rumbula by falling down as if dead and then, in a stroke of luck, having a pile of the victims' footwear thrown over her body. When the killers had gone, she crawled out and then hid from the Germans for the rest of the war, first with a series of Latvian families and then with a group of extremely religious Baltic-German Seventh-day Adventists, who regarded her as an agent of God's will.

Conductor Arvīds Jansons was one of the rare Latvian musicians to have achieved international stature. In this issue Imants Sakss takes a look at Jansons' early musical career in Liepāja and Rīga and his success as a guest conductor throughout the world. Jansons was especially popular in Japan, Czechoslovakia, and England. He died in England, while performing his duties as permanent guest conductor of the Hallē Orchestra of Manchester, in late 1984.

Another Latvian artist who has achieved recognition beyond the Latvian community, painter Raimonds Staprāns, is the subject of art editor Nikolajs Bulmanis' essay in this issue. Staprāns himself has written eloquently about art and the artistic process in JG 99 and JG 147. Some extracts (translation I.V.) from JG 99: "To work creatively one needs inner tension, an excess of energy. This excess is not to be found in positivism. Positivism - the happy moments of life - is insipidly flat, while the seething currents of darkness and obscenity are full of inexhaustible strength." Or: "To survive, an artist has to live under the wing of the conflict between life and death. He must cultivate it, grow it, feed it, until it becomes so large, that it consumes its creator. This is the greatest difference between the artist and the craftsman." Staprāns' painting "Death Valley Chair" is reproduced on page 2 of this issue.

The poet Roberts Mūks, continuing his conversation with Juris Zommers begun in JG 152, expresses thoughts similar to those of Staprāns: "What can the reader demand from the poet? - certainly help in seeing, help in waking up from the tyranny of universally-accepted norms. From the reader, the poet expects a minimal level of mental refinement and a readiness to be confronted with the dark and sometimes revolting side of things." Mūks also claims that the "unholy alliance" between science and the Christian church has reached the point of spiritual bankruptcy, and is now desperately searching for a way out along other, previously ignored paths. Viktors Hausmanis, theatre critic and director of the Andrejs Upītis Institute of Language and Literature in Rīga sends an account of the careers and aspirations of five young Latvian actors: Pēteris Gaudiņš, Esmeralda Ermale, Andris Bērziņš, Anita Grūbe, and Varis Vētra. All five graduated from the studio program of the "Dailes Teātris", in 1977, and all five are still working with the theatre ensemble. Baiba Šmita-Kalēja has interviewed the popular folkdancer and choreographer Zigurds Miezītis, leader of the Toronto group "Diždancis", for this issue, while Valdis J. Zeps has contributed a list of Latvian-language periodicals and periodicals produced in Latvia, that are publicly available on microfilm outside the USSR.

Type-setting problems have prevented the inclusion of fiction and some regular columns in this issue; however, we do have poetry by Maija Meirāne, Voldemārs Avens, Valdis Krāslavietis, Ontons Zvīdris, and Antons Slišāns. The cover of this issue is by Ilmārs Rumpēters.


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