Jaunā Gaita nr. 194/195, decembris, 1993

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JG 194/195

"Language is the basis of culture; only language is able to support a nation's unique culture." These words introduced the first issue of Jaunā Gaita in 1955. Since then Jaunā Gaita has been dedicated to the use of Latvian as a medium of artistic expression and dissemination of knowledge. This double issue of Jaunā Gaita is devoted to language and problems of translation.

Aija Janelsiņa-Priedite, who has spent most of her life outside Latvia, has felt the pressure of the exile community to preserve an ideal, "pure" form of the Latvian language. She asks: "Is the Latvian language a cultural monument or a living means of communication?" Philologist Brigita Šiliņa (Latvia) examines current developments in the use of Latvian and stresses that the active involvement of the government is necessary to reverse the bastardization of the Latvian language with Russian and (in recent years) English terms. Sarma Kļaviņa discusses the new law requiring the use of Latvian in government business and commerce, and stresses that it is the responsibility of every Latvian to nurture the Latvian language: only individuals can protect it from perishing. Velta Rūķe-Draviņa reviews from a linguistic point of view a collection of essays on Lithuanian poet Kristijonis Donelaitis (1714-1780). JG prose editor Anita Liepiņa discusses one of the idiosyncrasies of modern Latvian: the use of feminine endings on women's last names.

Some of the material in this issue's section on translation was prepared for a symposium on translation, which JG held in the mid-1980s. The organizer of this symposium, Juris Silenieks, introduces the section with a brief discussion of three books containing Latvian poetry in translation: Contemporary Latvian Poetry, published by the Iowa University Press, 1914-1950, Auf der Karte Europas: ein Fleck (A Speck on the Map of Europe), with Margita Gūtmane's excellent translations of the poetry of Aleksandrs Čaks and Biruta Skujeniece, and Shifting Borders, to which Aina Kraujiete contributed her translations of 13 twentieth-century Latvian poets into English. Lia Smits describes translation as a complex intellectual activity; Sniedze Ruņģe stresses that translation requires an understanding of the cultures involved. Andre Šedriks, who has translated several Latvian plays into English, emphasizes that a translator of drama has to consider the spoken idioms of the two languages, while Ināra Cedriņa feels that the most important aspect of poetry translation is to capture the thoughts and feelings expressed. Uldis Bērziņš urges young Latvians outside Latvia to try their hand at translating Latvian poetry into other languages, while an anonymous contributor from Latvia stresses that we should concentrate on translating the best Latvian literature. Astrid Stahnke describes her experience in translating Aspazija's Silver Veil as a thesis subject for an American university, while Tālivaldis Ķiķauka discusses some concerns when translating religious texts.

As might be expected, we also have examples of translation in this issue: Aina Kraujiete's translation of Ceslaw Milosz' poem "Sarajevo", translations of each other's work by Astrid Ivaska and the late Spanish poet Jorge Guillen, and a piece by the Slovak prose writer Jan Smrek translated into Latvian by Dr. Jana Tesarova. Valija Ruņģe introduces Dr. Tesarova, while Rolfs Ekmanis, a former contributing editor of JG, discusses the prolific and popular but critically underrated novelist Valdemārs Kārklinš, who began his literary career as a translator of European novels for the innovative publisher "Grāmatu Draugs" in Riga in the 1920's.

The poetry section of this issue features four longtime contributors to JG: Baiba Bičole, Aina Kraujiete, Voldemārs Avens (all USA) and Juris Zommers (Canada). Paulis Birznieks' (USA) poems depict with calm intensity love and childhood memories. Newcomer Andris Akmentiņš (Latvia) sees a Latvian cemetery as a unifying presence across generations. Akmentiņš has also contributed several vivid prose sketches of his childhood in rural Latvia. Margita Gūtmane (Sweden) has contributed a short prose piece, "Letters to my Mother", and a homage to Veronika Strēlerte. Ruta Veidemane (Latvia) reviews the collection of Strēlerte's poetry that was recently published in Riga. Mārtiņš Lasmanis has annotated some rarely-seen 1931 diary entries by Anna Brigadere for Jaunā Gaita.

A highlight of this issue is Gunars Saliņš' interview with Gundega Repše, winner of the Rainis and Aspazija literary prize. Another literary prize winner and a former contributing editor of JG, Tālivaldis Ķiķauka, who was awarded the first Anšlavs Eglītis memorial prize in 1993, contributes the story "The Eternal Seeker". One of the lasting contributions to Latvian culture from the exile community was that of the publishing house Daugava in Stockholm, run by Georgs and Dagnija Šleiers. For almost fifty years they have produced books of the highest literary, editorial and intellectual standards. Perhaps their greatest contribution is the monumental series on the history of Latvia, of which historians in Latvia have said, "You have given us back our history." Gunars Zvejnieks discusses the Daugava publishing house and its "soul", Dagnija Šleiere, in this issue.

Ilze Konstante writes about a recent show by five women graduates of the Latvian Academy of Art, while Laimonis Mieriņš describes his observations during a recent sabbatical stay in St. Petersburg. Viktors Hausmanis contributes his interview with Uldis Dumpis on the actor's fiftieth birthday, while Mārtiņš Lasmanis reviews the Latvian Opera's new production of Bizet's Carmen. The Latvian Opera House is currently undergoing a long-needed renovation, so the Opera's productions are being staged in other, less suitable venues. Helēna Heinrihsone's new altarpiece for a church in northern Kurzeme and its consecration ceremony are described by Nikolajs Bulmanis.

Juris Mazutis and Māris Ķirsons give some personal suggestions on ways the Latvian government could act to solve some problems. Biruta Sūrmane reviews a recent novel by Aivars Tarvids, Jānis Mauliņš discusses a novel by Eduards Freimanis, and Valdemārs Ancītis reviews "a book which we cannot do without" - the new compendium of biographical information on Latvian writers. The frontispiece is by Gerda Roze (USA), the cover is by Juris Krieviņš (Latvia), and Imants Zilberts (Sweden) has contributed two visual comments on current events in Latvia.


I.V., J.Z, L.Z.

Jaunā Gaita