Jaunā Gaita nr. 174, septembris 1989

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JG 174

The Baltic nations have been radicalized this past summer: even the moderate Popular Fronts are demanding that the USSR become a loose confederation of sovereign states. An astounding demonstration of Baltic unity took place on Aug. 23, the 50'th anniversary of the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, when over 1 million Balts linked hands across their countries in a symbolic demand for long-delayed justice. Aivars Liepiņš' photos of the demonstration accompany Austris Ruņģis' "Comments", an intriguing juxtaposition of details from Latvian history with Ruņģis' own ironic "comments", in verse form, from the perspective of the late 20'th century and the era of "glasnost". This is Austris Ruņģis' first appearance in Jaunā Gaita, although his last name is familiar to our readers - his father Aivars, mother Valija and sister Sniedze are frequent contributors to our pages.

One of the reasons the Balts are demanding independence is the demographic catastrophe perpetrated by the Soviet system of centralized control, as a result of which Latvians are now barely in a majority in their own country. Juris Dreifelds offers population statistics for Latvia by district and by nationality, and comments on the situation. These data, perhaps not surprisingly, are not available to the general public in Latvia.

Rimants Ziedonis, an editor of the Latvian Writers' Union monthly Karogs, often writes in an ironic, allegorical style. His story "The Egg" describes the grandiose preparations for the hatching of the five billionth chicken, to take place in an immense stadium, witnessed by thousands of birds of all species. The various birds are personified by Ziedonis with humourous and devastating accuracy. The turtle is also invited, but he misses the event, arriving after everyone else has left in disgust (because the egg refuses to hatch on time), just as the freshly-hatched chicken takes off in flight on its own.

Poetry in this issue is by Māris Čaklais (editor of the arts newspaper "Literatūra un Māksla") and our poetry editor Aina Kraujiete (USA). Čaklais' poems exemplify his strong, direct style and his "66 Points on Poetry" give succinct advice to the aspiring poet on the meaning of poetry, the relationship of technique to theme, the creative process and its pitfalls, and the cardinal rule that poets must above all be true to themselves, because your poetry is first of all necessary to you".

Viktors Hausmanis describes the production of the play "Four Days in June", by the Daile Theatre of Riga, as one of its best this season. The play was first published in JG issues 170 and 171.

Official contacts between the exile Latvian community and Latvia have finally been sanctioned by both sides. As a result, Latvian writers from the West and Latvia were able to meet this spring in Los Angeles and Stockholm and discuss publicly their concerns for the fate of Latvia and its literature. Juris Silenieks contributes his "Frescati notes" on the meeting in Stockholm. The new conditions in the Soviet Union have allowed the re-establishment of organizations and activities banned since 1940, among them the Latvian Society of Riga, founded in the 19'th century to promote Latvian culture and scientific research. Mārtiņš Lasmanis interviewed the new president of the Society, Andris Kolborgs, for JG.

Our music editor, Imants Sakss, visited Latvia this spring, and was warmly welcomed by musicians, artists and the people of his native Maliena. He recorded his impressions of his hectic weeks there for this issue, expressing his greatest joy in Latvian youth: "we have a future." Imants Zemzaris' introduction of Sakss for the arts newspaper "Literatūra un Māksla" is reprinted here along with Sakss' article. Nikolajs Bulmanis, our art editor, was in Latvia at the same time and interviewed five young but already accomplished sculptors for JG. He also contributes his interview of the Latvian Social Democratic leader Dr. Bruno Kalniņš.

Editor Juris Mazutis contributes his thoughts on two subjects: the proposals for economic sovereignty of the Baltic states, and the problem of the relationship between minority and majority languages in a single territory, comparing the situation in Quebec today with that of Latvia.

Mārtiņš Lasmanis reviews Alberts Bels' controversial "historical" novel People in Boats. Valdis J. Zeps and Velta Rūķe-Draviņa contribute contrasting reviews of Vaira and Imants Freibergs' compilation of Latvian dainas on the theme of the sun. This volume marks a major step in Latvian folklore research: all of the dainas in the volume are contained in a computer database and can be accessed with software tools designed by Imants Freibergs. Both reviewers find the volume to be mainly praiseworthy, but Rūķe-Draviņa questions some of the methods used in the transcription of the dainas from the original documents to the database. She also discovered numerous typographic errors in the transcriptions and concludes that a facsimile printing of Krišjānis Barons' original volumes of the dainas is essential at this time. Mārtiņš Lasmanis also reports that a newly discovered work by novelist Kārlis Zariņš (born in 1889) has been published in Rīga this year.

The cover of this issue, by Ilmārs Rumpēters, is dedicated to the singer Ieva Akurātere, and the frontispiece is by Voldemārs Avens.


Ilze Valdmanis

Jaunā Gaita