Jaunā Gaita nr. 227, decembris, 2001

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JG 227

We continue the theme of Rīga's 800th anniversary in this issue with two quotes about Rīga on the first page: Vizma Belševica's unforgettable Winds heave. Winds strike. Rīga is silent. ... The immortal can be silent, and Māris Čaklais' How can I help (Rīga) prosper? By not going away, I whisper, by staying here.

Jānis Elsbergs describes three views of contemporary Rīga: that of a "mid-level tourist", that of an inhabitant of Rīga such as himself, and Rīga during its anniversary celebrations in August of this year. Ingmāra Balode describes a conference called Visions of Rīga that took place during the celebrations.

Inta Ezergaile looks at the poetry of Baiba Bičole, whose first book of poetry was published in 1966. Bičole has been the editor-in-chief of the Latvian newspaper Laiks in New York, and she has often contributed to JG. Ezergaile describes Bičole's poetry as extreme, risktaking, full of surreal moments, with a cosmic range and apocalyptic events. It can also be as soft as the touch of a flower petal, but holding great strength.

Lalita Muižniece contributes an obituary of political activist, editor, novelist, playwright and polemicist Aivars Ruņģis (1925-2001). Ruņģis was one of the first editors of JG (1956 -1957) and was widely known for his argumentative style and strongly-head, often contrarian views. He was described as a "lonely patriot" by his colleague, professor Valters Nollendorfs.

JG editor-in-chief Rolfs Ekmanis concludes his interview with Vilnis Zaļkalns, a prominent member of the Latvian Social Democratic Party abroad. Journalist Frank Gordon remembers his many friendships with Latvian Social Democrats in Sweden and the roles they played in recent Latvian history.

Kārlis Račevskis contributes an interesting and wide-ranging essay on the colonization of the Baltic states during the Soviet occupation, covering topics such as the almost total disregard for the Baltic states as victims of Soviet colonial oppression by Western intellectuals, the methods used by the USSR to colonize the Baltics, the writings of Vaclav Havel on the effects of totalitarian and "post-totalitarian" systems on society, and the novels of Alberts Bels, whose theme has often been the struggle between an individual and an oppressive external force. Finally, Račevskis points out that colonialism in Latvia by no means ended with the demise of the Soviet Union: today the _ cultures and traditions of small nations are even more threatened by global technological and economic pressures. These pressures are the topic of the Kiberkambaris discussion between Gundars Ķeniņš-King and Juris Žagariņš.

Nikolajs Bulmanis discusses Raimonds Staprāns' exhibition of paintings in San Francisco this past September. Staprāns is also a playwright and frequent contributor to the literary section of JG. Ruta Čaupova looks at the life and work of Pēteris Martinsons, who is regarded as one of Latvia's finest artists in ceramic media.

Laima Kalniņa contributes the first section of her new novel Kaķa manuskripts (The Cat's Manuscript), whose narrator comes into possession of a manuscript describing life in a refugee camp in Germany after World War II.

The poetry section contains translations of the work of Artur Lundquist, Bob Dylan and Gerard Manley Hopkins, the first translated by Fricis Dziesma and the last two by Juris Rozītis.

Reviewed in this issue is the late Aivars Ruņģis' Uz tām prūšu robežām (On the Prussian Front), a novel based on the experiences of Latvian conscripts, such as Ruņģis himself, during the German retreat from the Eastern front to Berlin in 1944 -1945. The reviewer is Auseklis Zaļinskis. Nora Kūla reviews the second volume of Ilmars Bastjānis-Krasts' lively memoirs, describing his experiences in POW camps after World War II, DP camps in Germany and the Latvian exile community in the USA in the 1950's. Jānis Krēsliņš discusses the first part of the memoirs of Viktor Straub, a Baltic-German physician who grew up in the town of Rūjiena. Krēsliņš highlights Straub's detailed descriptions of people and places in pre-war small-town Latvia and the fact that Rūjiena has a surprisingly large number of books written about it.

The cover is by Ilmārs Rumpēters. A drawing by Māris Bishofs is on page 8, and vignettes from the 1930's by Niklāvs Strunke appear on many pages in this issue. A painting by Raimonds Staprāns is also reproduced in this issue.

Ilze Valdmanis

Jaunā Gaita