•  Leons Briedis
•  Dumitru Ungureanu


Leons Briedis



The Contemporaneity of Folklore


I would like to speak about the phenomen on that the Russian literary scholar A. Veselovsky already at the last century refered to as: the modernism more modern than Modernism itself, by which he meant the Latvian folksong, which we also call „the daina”. This word come into the language from Lithuanian folklore – daina, there are also echoes of Romanian word „doina”. Essentially it is of Illyrian origine, thus bearing witness to Indoeuropen roots.

What is the Latvian folksong, the „daina”. In basic terms, it is non-rhyming, four lines in length. It can be further divided logically into two parts, rhytmically each line consists of two dipodes, each dipode of two feet.

Aiz a / vota // saule / léca,
Zelta / starus // kaisî / dama;
Grütdie //nîßa // asa / riñas
Krît /   Dievam //  klépî / tî.

Translating literary:

Behind the spring the sun rose,
Scattering (spreadind) golden rays.
The tears of an orphan
Fall into the lap of God.

Usually these songs are trochaic in meter, although dactyl also occurs. In the preceding discussion I wanted to give you an idea of the structure of the Latvian folksong. The first two lines sketch in, one might say, one „lyrical situation”, the next - a different „lyrical situation”. In the end we obtain an ideal form of a circle or a cross.

Aiz a / vota // saule / léca,
Zelta / starus // kaisî  / dama;
Grütdie / nîßa // asa / riñas
 Krît / Dievam // klépî /tî.

It’s hard to find, in the folklore of the world’s peoples analogs to the Latvian folksong. It is hardly a Russian chastushka, a Spanish copla, a Portuguese quadra, or Japanese haiku. The only other form I would venture to compare it would be Indonesian pantun. Of course, only in terms of typology, although noone in Latvian has really studied the similarities. Twenty years ago, when I was studying in Moscow, I become interested in the surprising relation between Latvian „dainas” and the Indonesian „pantun”, not only in structure, but also in a certain way of thinking, really mythological, and in poetical means of expression. I even started to study Malasian and its related languages Indonesian, Tagal, Malgs etc. but I won’t burden you with my hypotheses at this point in time.

Let’s return to the folksong I read to you. It’s not hard to feel its determinate quality, the level of generalization. It’s like a peculiar „lyrical theorum”, expressed in elliptical language, concentrated and laconical. It’s hard to talk about a plot, maybe one could say „lot” like situation, which one can glimpse, but, I think, somehow „behind the picture”. Or better, one can „glimpse” only half of metaphor – the half lying on the ground – „the golden rays of the sun”. The other half „the orphan’s tears falling into God’s lap”, brings us into metaphysical, mystical space. Of course, this exemple wasn’t selected at random, so that these thoughts can’t be absolutized and applied to any folksong, but at the same time we are talking about a characteristic and essential facet of the Latvian folksong. It shows a special kind of lyrisism, in essence based on metaphor, where the inspiration (in this exemple the bitter feelings of an orphan) is made to flow into the concept (the urge to express an existencial truth about, say, the order of  the world).

In short, a special metaphysical lyricism is characteristic of the daina. One could say that with the most modern poetic means it expresses the most archaic conceptions of human inner life and world. Perhaps for this reason the Latvian folksong has so intensely influenced Latvian poetry in general, in the past and it seems in the future as well. In the Latvian folksong we can see the rudiments of the poetic elements a wide variety of 20’th century modernist currents - symbolism, expressionism, futurism, even dadaism, and more. If you remember, the Russian futurist V. Hlebnikov talked about „mytical realism”, his desire to be more traditional than tradition itself, about his wish to renew his link to the very fundaments of the Russian language, to its primary elements. Yet this return to tradition, to be more traditional than tradition, is by no means a movest backward. The return of the human beeing and humanity to itself, to its original nature - this is sooner moving forward, while many modernist experiments could be called mulling around on the spot or even in a dead end. Therefore (and Hlebnikov emphasized this) thouse poets that realize this, also realize that the true birth of creativity is the future.

In the end a most fundamental maxim, I think, is T. S. Eliot’s understanding, that neither culture nor poetry can develop outside tradition. Modernism too didn’t come about „ab ovo” (from the egg, Leda’s egg from which beautiful Helen is said to have come). Each person, each nation with its poetry contains a condensed history, in other words a tradition, a complex network of cultural manifestations which holds all our existence and consciensness. So what then is national literature? One could say it’s the sum total of the creative drives of a given nation, unified in the national tradition. Not forgotting of course, that the real writer is he who with his creative product helps to create the national mentality, to wider and deepen its conceptions, rather than given in the dictats of fixed national conceptions.The world of culture is a structuring human activity, along with this offers people the freedom to determine their place and role in a given situation. So „to hand down” through tradition means to give freedom, as Heidegger put it. T. S. Eliot clasified poets into developers of the means of expression and creators. „When I speak of creation”, he wrote in the introduction to a work by Ezra Paund, „I put this word in gustes, since if creation was possible, it would be harmless. But «creation» is subject to mistakes, since it is impossible. The determinity poetry in poetry - to distinguish progress from anomalies. There are two sorts of anomalies in poetry. The first is the imitation of progress, the second something unnatural. /../ Real originality is progress,when it’s real, it seems so necessary that even deny the authors originality”.

The Latvian folksong in this sense is a unique, about which one could talk long and in depth - in the linguistic sense - about its special syntax, morphology, lexicon, stylistic and in the sense of its world-view. It’s really a unique source of our, Latvian, poetic inspiration, therefore we could speak about Latvian folksong a permanent contemporaneity. 

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Dumitru Ungureanu  



Colþul colecþionarului cusurgiu 



dumitru ungureanu - avionulNu mai eram chiar un copil care se joacã inocent cu jucãriile când am primit avionul de plastic din imaginea alãturatã. Ce-l determinase pe Taica, un gospodar nu zgârcit, ci econom, cum zicea chiar el despre sine, sã cheltuiascã 5,60 lei/buc (preþul e înscris pe coadã) pentru un obiect care nu prezenta garanþie cã va sta mult în proprietatea mea? Îmi bântuie prin minte bãnuiala despre ce anume era la mijloc: dragostea faþã de mine, un sentiment pe care nu ºtia sã ºi-l exprime altfel decât cu duioºie, prin intermediul arhaicului baston faimos, fabricaþie personalã din lemn de corn. Mã bufneºte râsul, amintindu-mi de câte ori m-am împiedicat în bãþul cu pricina, nu ºtiu când ºi cum ajuns între tibiile mele aflate în miºcare de fugã sãnãtoasã. De ce fugeam? Dar cum sã nu fug mâncând pãmântul, când ºtiam cã fãcusem - din punct de vedere al adulþilor - ditamai boroboaþa?! Naiba ºtie cum se þineau scai de mine, eu nu voiam deloc - dar deloc, deloc! - sã le comit!...

Exigent supervizor al creºterii mele, mai degrabã exeget al vieþii rurale decât actant al acesteia, Taica va fi observat, pesemne, pasiunea cu care vãrul Ment ºi cu mine construiam avioane din scânduri de brad atent cioplite, cu motoare din cutii de chibrituri ºi roþi din mosor tãiat în douã, cu elice de tablã ºi ax din cuie parþial ruginite. Am transfigurat cândva joaca noastrã într-o prozã (de citit aici), cu care am ºi debutat literar. Cum „avioanele” noastre se ridicau abia la înãlþimea de-o palmã sau douã, circa patru-cinci metri distanþã, vijelios trase cu sfoara pe cea mai netedã porþiune a drumului comunal, arbitrar pietruit, satisfacþia producerii ºi deþinerii diverselor „aparate zburãtoare” era perfect nulã. Nu mi-am închipuit cã Taica asista, de la distanþã, la frustrãrile mele sincopate. Vãrul Ment, mai prozaic, nu-ºi exprima niciodatã nemulþumirea cã nu-i iese ceva, fiindcã n-avea timp de lamentaþii: cum eºua într-o treabã, se apuca imediat de alta. Invenþiile ºi inovaþiile (arhicunoscutele menterii) curgeau din mâinile sale ca din atelierele lui Edison (americanul, nu tatãl vãrului, nea Gogu, poreclit Edison).

Suferind, ca bãtrânii, de reumatism, la sfatul competentului sãu nepot Costicã, felcer de oameni, rezident în Sibiu pe-atunci, Taica s-a îndurat greu sã plece la bãi în staþiunea Techirghiol. Singur, Maica nu l-a însoþit, cã nu-ºi vedea capul de treabã. Era vara lui 1963, pãmânturile fuseserã luate, nu date la GAC, tata câºtiga destui bani ca sã ne ajungã, dacã i-ar fi chibzuit mai bine ºi n-ar fi bãut zilnic o parte din ei, pãtulul gemea încã de porumb ºi magazia de grâu, viaþa pãrea frumoasã. Taica n-a gãsit prea mare preþul sus-pomenit pentru jucãria destinatã sã ajungã primul meu „obiect de colecþie”. Mai am sub ochi lumina rece a zilei de septembrie când, aºezat pe scaun, la masã, dinaintea ferestrei din odaia ce slujea drept dormitor, sufragerie ºi camerã de toatã ziua, impunãtorul bãrbat cu burta cât damigeana în care þinea þuica de zarzãre, a despachetat cadoul ºi mi l-a întins, cu sfatul normal, economic strecurat printre dinþii galbeni de tutun: „Sã nu-l rãtãceºti!”

Nu l-am rãtãcit mai bine de jumãtate de secol, fiindcã praºtia lansatoare s-a rupt de mult, iar alta n-am confecþionat. ªi am bãnuiala cã nici internetul, renumit împrãºtior, nu-l va pierde... 


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