Jaunā Gaita nr. 86, 1971

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JG 86

This issue of JG emphasizes the journal's role as a forum for the exchange of ideas. Ethics and political philosophy - as well as opinions on present, past, and future trends in literature, music, art, and linguistics - are voiced, discussed, and analyzed. The speakers are representatives of many diverse fields of intellectual and political activity - in the Western world, in Soviet Latvia, and sometimes, ghostly voices from the past. Certain common concerns appear again and again - such as, can a nation, a language, and a culture survive against great odds? Can they survive the assimilation by the West and the overt suppression, even intellectual genocide, by the Soviet Union? Can human liberty and dignity survive in a world increasingly dominated by „situation ethics"?

A notable spokesman for liberal politics is Dr. Brūno Kalninš, chairman of the Latvian Social Democratic Workers' Party. As the last surviving signer of the Latvian declaration of independence in 1918, a former member of the Latvian parliament, survivor of many kinds of authoritarian oppression including the Nazi concentration camps, and presently professor of political science in Stockholm, Dr. Kalniņš is eminently qualified to be the spokesman for his party's new program for the restoration of democratic rule in Latvia. In an interview published in this issue, Kalniņš emerges as a voice of unswerving belief in freedom, liberated from the prejudices and hatreds of the past, and capable of realistically assessing the immediate as well as far-reaching results of courses of action open to Latvians all over the world. Above all, Dr. Kalniņš is emphatic about the need to generate action on the basis of issues relevant now, not 30 years ago. The problems of cultural survival by ethnic minorities are analyzed in the context of universal morality by Stephen C. Reynolds (U. of Oregon). In „Crisis in Contemporary Ethics", Reynolds condemns as criminally hypocritical the western liberals' tendency to soft-pedal, or even condone, in the interests of world peace and brotherhood, various abuses of man's freedom.

Composer Imants Sakss and poet Baiba Bičole represent the arts. Sakss optimistically describes the continuing growth and enrichment in the development of Latvian music, both in Soviet Latvia and the West. He views as an inexhaustible source of inspiration the heritage of folk music, whose richness has as yet been only barely tapped. Bičole, however, sees little hope for a new generation of Latvian poets to grow up in exile. Literature must develop close to its roots; consequently, the best hope for the survival of Latvian language and literature is probably to be looked for in the native country. Yet, the possibility of a language's survival in an environment hostile or indifferent to it is offered by voices out of the past. In the Echoes section Arturs Baumanis reprints an 1888 petition by a group of Latvian high-school students, requesting permission to set up groups for the study of their native language at their czarist German-language school. Many of the petitioners eventually became leaders of the "New Movement" for Latvian cultural and political autonomy.

Another voice from the past is that of Jukums Vācietis, the Latvian colonel who became the first commander-in-chief of the Red Army. In the current installment of his monograph The Commander from Zemgale, Uldis Ģērmanis (Stockholm) describes Vācietis' role in and reactions to the February Revolution and the growing political radicalism of the Latvian regiments of the Russian army. Ģērmanis points out that Col. Vācietis wholeheartedly supported the revolution, and expected it to bring greater freedom and social justice for the Latvian nation. However, Vācietis was essentially a moderate who belonged to no political party, and his vision did not go beyond „a free Latvian republic within a free Russia". One reads with great interest a description of a meeting between Col. Vācietis and the young Brūno Kalniņš; Vācietis considered the social democrat's ideas much too leftist-radical.

In his volume of poetic prose observations, Kurland, the Soviet Latvian poet Imants Ziedonis has described small nations as „the itching croup between the toes of the world's complacency". In such a world, belief in love of those closest to him is perhaps the only course open to a man who refuses to be dominated by the pretenders to power. Gunars Irbe's review of Kurland calls the work a reproach to all who would forget their roots, their heritage, and ignore past witnesses to man's efforts to create a better, nobler reality. Irbe also reviews Ziedonis' Epiphanies and, Jānis Peters' collection of poems, Bloodwort. In Peters' poems fire's destruction, nature's regeneration, and man's age-old heritage are viewed in the perspective of the world's eternal, „diurnal course". Included in this issue are also Kārlis Draviņš' review of Weronika Kubicka's bibliography on Baltic languages; Jānis Ķēniņš' essay on Beethoven's contacts with Latvia; and Irene Avena's analysis of the deceptively simple vision in the paintings of Daina Dagnija (New York).

In the literary section, „poetic naturalism" is represented by an exerpt from Eglons Spēks' sea novel, „Oiltanker Victoria", and mystical recreation of history characterizes Karina Eglīte-Bērziņa's tale, „The Crusaders". For poetry Valdis Krāslavietis contributes some deceptively humorous evocations of „insect talk": underneath the seemingly trivial buzzing lie such overwhelming questions as „what is morality? is God dead? or does He just not care"? And the potential absurdity and triviality - and yet, the dignity and value of human life, endeavor, longing, and aspiration, are the pervading themes in the poems of Baiba Rirdāne, Alma Bēne, Daina Dārziņa, Jānis Kļaviņš and Eduards Freimanis.

The cover is by Ilmārs Rumpēters.


I. Š.-L.

Jaunā Gaita