Jaunā Gaita nr. 175, novembris 1989

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JG 175

Perhaps the most difficult fate, among Latvian writers, belongs to those whose careers began at the end of the Second World War: initially true believers in the communist system, they were gradually disillusioned by the system's falsehood, its refusal to defend and care for those in whose name it ruled: the working class. One such writer was Ēvalds Vilks, who published his first short stories in 1949 in the prescribed socialist realist style, but who was gradually unable to follow its dictates for "the Soviet patriot's proud, aggressive stance". The critical establishment faulted him for dealing with "nonentities" rather than "strong, positive personalities", culminating in a diatribe from Augusts Voss (the Latvian Communist leader of the time) in 1963 on Vilks' "unhealthy tendencies" and "ideological harmfulness". Ildze Kronta recounts Vilks' career as a writer and the harm done to him by the cruelty of his age.

Easily the most interesting article in this issue is Uldis Siliņš highly personal account of poet Teodors Tomsons' life and work. Tomsons (1909-1988) had a difficult personality, affecting a mask of dissoluteness, vulgarity, and egotism ("Among Latvians there are only three true poets: myself, Virza and Medenis"), while those who knew him intimately testified to his sensitivity, hospitality and kindness. Siliņš hypothesizes that Tomsons was eventually unable to separate the outer mask from his inner self. Tomsons is best known for his poetry celebrating the life of the senses, but his later works, many of them just recently published, show more of his inner self. All of his work is beautifully crafted and original, and deserves much recognition.

Visvaldis Bokalders, the author of a book on Jāzeps Grosvalds' (1891-1920) Persian sketches, contributes a brief account of Grosvalds' life and the fate of his work. Through the efforts of Bokalders and the Grosvalds family, most of Grosvalds' uniquely expressive work has been preserved and catalogued, and much of it has been acquired by museums in Sweden for their collections.

Andrievs Ezergailis contributes an account of his month-long visit to Latvia this past May. He starts at his former home, the cooperative dairy at Rīte that was run by his father, Jānis Ezergailis, observing the changes wrought during the past 45 years. From there he moves to observations of various phenomena and changes of the past two years: imperialism, the NKVD (still called the Cheka by Latvians), the Committee for Cultural Exchange with Latvians Abroad (an organ of the NKVD), the Communist party newspaper Cīņa, and the Latvian National Sovereignty Movement (LNNK).

Juris Mazutis comments on the rapid, astonishing disappearance of the communist system in Eastern Europe, and on the findings of the Yakovlev Commission, which "investigated" the 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact and its secret clauses which brought about the invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany and the occupation of the Baltic republics by the Soviet Union. The commission was forced to admit that such clauses "may" exist, although the report of the commission was not officially released and was not signed by its Russian members. The commission's report was published in the Baltic republics, but not in Russia.

Poetry in this issue is by Eduards Salna, Jānis Gorsvāns, Anna Rancāne and two poets from the generation who have grown up in exile: Pēteris Cedriņš and lnese Baļķīte. Valerija Bērziņa-Baltiņa has contributed an acoount of the Latvian mythical hero Lāčplēsis, the subject of many literary works, beginning with Andrejs Pumpurs' epic poem in the last century. Last year the Lāčplēsis theme was given an intensely emotional treatment in the rock opera by Māra Zālīte and Zigmārs Liepiņš, in contrast to Rainis' more intellectual approach in his classic play Uguns un nakts.

Our regular oontributors lmants Sakss and Nikolajs Bulmanis comment on cultural events in Latvia in the past several months, and Sakss discusses the well-known composer Tālivaldis Ķeniņš, whose music, while acknowledging its Latvian heritage, has always been international in outlook. Viktors Hausmanis interviews the young actress Zane Jančevska, while Voldemārs Avens describes this year's meeting of Latvian artists in the Catskills.

Besides reviews of poetry and prose, this issue contains reviews of two major reference works: Benjamiņš Jēgers' Bibliography of Latvian Publications Published Outside Latvia, in four volumes, a work which Valentīne Lasmane says is comparable to Krišjānis Barons' Dainas in its precision, completeness and variety of source material; and Janina Kursīte's analysis of Latvian poetry at the beginning of the 20'th century. The sheer volume of poetry analyzed for the statistical data forming the core of the book is astounding: 4000 poems with a total of 80,000 lines, but Kursīte has also written astute and insightful characterizations of the lives and work of the 13 poets whose work was used in the analysis.

The frontispiece is one of Jāzeps Grosvalds' sketches from his Eastern travels. This is the first time that this particular sketch has been published. Ed. Keišs' cartoon of Tālivaldis Ķeniņš is on page 46. The cover is by Ilmārs Rumpēters.


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Jaunā Gaita