Short outlines of books by Estonian authors

by Rutt Hinrikus

Emil Tode. Radio (Raadio)

Tallinn, Eesti Keele Sihtasutus, 2002. 447 pp


Tõnu Õnnepalu, writing under the pseudonym Emil Tode, launched his literary career with the novel Border State, published in 1993, which has by now been translated into more than ten languages. The title of his first novel is ambiguous and visionary – in all his following works of prose he has crossed both geographical borders and those separating different identities.


The protagonist of Radio is an Estonian emigrant, who has lived in Paris for ten years and then returns to his homeland. He is an oversensitive and narcissistic active homosexual with shaky self-esteem and a permanent identity crisis. His return is also a journey of exploration, marked with plentiful encyclopaedic information about the subjectively interpreted past and present of his land of birth, inserted into the novel. The point of view of the novel is that of a stranger, more exactly, that of an exile alienated from his homeland. The scene is set in Estonia in the summer of 2002, with a brief trip to New York.


Similarly to other Tode’s works, Radio is an autobiographical and contemplative book. The protagonist takes notes about his love affair with an older androgynous and authoritative diva Liz Franz. As he has become aware of his homosexual inclination, the story is at the same time a story of withdrawal, where love is mixed with hate. The roots of his love are in a transvestite scene from his childhood, where he had donned women’s clothes and played a diva before a mirror. The novel is presented as a study or a case history written for therapeutic purposes, hiding an accusation that the woman is harassing him. His aim is to pass the notes about Liz Franz's life over to her, but the diva dies of throat cancer in New York and the protagonist participates in the ceremony, where her ashes are scattered over the waves of the Atlantic Ocean. 


Critics have valued Radio as a story of the construction of homosexual identity, which is more honest and straightforward, up to the spilling of sperm, than the few earlier books on homosexuality in Estonian literature. At the same time, the novel contains lovely melodrama and nostalgia for those times when radio was the only information medium for Estonian rural people. The author himself has also drawn attention to the ambiguity of radio as a sign of an era. For instance, the word radio originally stood for telegram in French. The word radius – radiance surrounding the diva – also originates from the same stem. This word also marks the conflict between earthly and heavenly love.



Ilmar Vene. Getting Worse, or the Essence of the Modern Times (Pahustumine ehk Uusaja olemus)

Tartu, Ilmamaa, 2002. 367 pp


Ilmar Vene (1951) is a translator and essayist, an erudite and thinker, who has, among his other activities, translated the works of Seneca and St. Augustine into Estonian. The collection of essays Getting Worse, or the Essence of the Modern Times, which this year received the annual award of Tartu Cultural Endowment is his third book.


Ilmar Vene has focused on Classical Antiquity and Renaissance. Getting Worse discusses European cultural history, especially the great revolutions in the history of ideas, and following their impact. Explaining the neologistic title that is difficult to translate (’getting worse’ meaning that things do not get better, but they also turn upside down – the world picture and moral values get controversial and conflicting), the book describes the course of secularisation and profanation beginning from theocentric Middle Ages, through Reformation, initiated by Luther and Nietzsche’s ”revaluation of all values”, up to the total transformation of values at the beginning of the 21st century. The book opens with Christian Middle Ages, conceived as a pyramidal unified system, which gradually gives way to the growing importance of secularism and the diminishing importance of religious values. Vene’s treatment of morals, beauty and history is largely personified. The book contains about a dozen of essays; one by one, St. Augustine, Plato, Martin Luther, Nietzsche, Th. Mann, D. H. Lawrence, A. Camus, J.-P. Sartre and many others appear before the reader. At the same time, Vene remains neutral in his discussion – he is an attentive observer, one who seeks depth and understanding, not a propagandist or a shallow skimmer through a multitude of subjects.


Critics have compared Vene’s books with Isaiah Berlin’s essays on the history of spiritual issues. If something has been found to criticise, it could be the fact that Vene makes no allowances to his readers. We cannot blame him for simplification that tends to accompany large-scale generalisations, or for leaving exceptional cases aside. He narrates his subject hurriedly, his digressions are motivated and well illustrated namely by the exceptional cases, but he does not give his reader breathing time for pondering upon the material. His best reader resembles himself – a slightly old-fashioned intellectual, who is well familiar with the history of Western culture and philosophy and able to enter the spirit of the era under discussion.



Epp Annus. How to Tell Time (Kuidas kirjutada aega)

Tallinn, UTKK, 2002. 364 pp


Epp Annus’s (1969) comprehensive monograph How to Tell Time, defended as a doctoral thesis at the University of Tartu in 2002, is a literary philosophical discussion of the treatment of time in literature. Annus has found distinction with her study of narrative; lately she has analysed the notion of nation in the cultural discourse of the beginning of the 21st century. She began her investigation of time at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, in the present work she excels in applying the theory to literary works under analysis, and her list of references is impressive.


Annus opens her monograph with an overview of the works of classics – St. Augustine and Aristotle – and then, taking a short cut to physics, claims somewhat surprisingly that the treatment of time has essentially remained unchanged throughout the history. Time can still be specified, based on the Aristotelian model, only through space, through changes that have occurred in space. Therefore, Annus’s study is largely devoted to the examination of mutual influence of movement and presence, with an important addition to the Aristotle’s idea – time has been socialised, and it has been positioned between people, instead of being between objects. The author of the book is well familiar with the works of many different theoreticians; regarding the theory of literary narrative, she has relied on the works of Gerard Genette; her treatment of time is close to that of Henri Bergson, and she has based many of her ideas on Paul Ricoeur’s Time and Narrative.


However, she has developed these ideas further, supporting them with an abundance of examples taken from literary works. She uses examples from Estonian literature (Bernard Kangro, Madis Kõiv, A. H. Tammsaare, Jaan Kaplinski, and Tõnu Õnnepalu), as well as from the world literature (James Joyce, Michel Tournier) to examine the flow of time in different fictional worlds. A separate intriguing chapter ”On the Border of Fiction and Reality, or Madness and the Feeling of Security” has been devoted to the case of an Australian pianist David Helfgott, analysing relations between the reality and the film ”Shine”.


The opponent of Annus’s doctoral thesis Jaan Undusk has said that the work investigates infinite themes, or ultimate questions embedding paradoxes, which can be solved only by metaphors, by using literary words. Annus has very successfully created and used metaphorical word. She has written a new and innovative chapter to the Estonian literary criticism, which can as easily be applied to the analysis of the world literature.



Kalju Lepik. The Fabric of Light Does Not Shrink. Collected Poems 1938-1999. (Valguse riie ei vanu. Kogutud luuletused 1938-1999)

Tartu, Ilmamaa, 2002. 632 pp


The life and work of Kalju Lepik (1920-1999) illustrate the story how Estonian literature became split into two halves after the WWII, and how it became united again. Lepik began writing poetry as a schoolboy in the pre-war Estonia. He preferred freedom in exile to life under repressions in homeland; not having acknowledged Soviet occupation, he returned to Estonia only in 1990. He returned as a living classic, who was met by appreciating crowds and whose works sold out immediately. Lepik’s weapon was word, and in spite of being banned in the occupied homeland, his voice was not subdued even here. Already in the end of the 1950s, during the Khrushchev’s thaw, Soviet Estonian writer Juhan Smuul wrote that Kalju Lepik was the most gifted, but also the most anti-Soviet poet in exile. Lepik did not limit himself only to poetry – living in Stockholm, he stood for the preservation of the archival heritage of the local Estonian community, he was one of the founders of the Baltic Archive, and the Chairman of the Foreign Estonian Writers’ Union in 1982-1999. In 1946-1997 he published 15 new books of poetry, the two latest of which appeared in Estonia after the restitution of independence.


The comprehensive collection The Fabric of Light Does Not Shrink, issued in the poetry series of the Ilmamaa Publishers, draws together all Lepik’s published work. Although he is an exile poet par excellence, his poetry, varied in form, follows the development of modernism throughout the 20th century, displaying realistic rural scenes, plain songs and occasional verses, as well as declarative compositions in free verse and warning visions of future in the form of almost cosmic generalisation. The extraordinary visuality of his poetic images is distinctly individual and unsurpassable, were he talking about a haunting bloody face of a stranger behind the home window, or about red carrots in his mother’s orchard. Such visuality is well complemented by refined sound harmony. The abundance of allusions and intertextuality of Lepik’s later poetry can be related to postmodernism, but still, even when ironical, the poet never alienates from his word that characterises postmodernists. Lepik’s poetry is always full of sentiment and does not waver; his home land, whose fate he expresses based on his exile experience, is holy to him, as well as he holds love and hate holy in his soul.



Matt Barker. Waanenburg’s Massacre (Waanenburgi tapatalgud)

EYS Veljesto, Tartu 2002. 215 pp


In his earlier books, the young student of medicine Matt Barker joined the genres of horror and science fiction. In the longer title story and three shorter stories of Waanenburg’s Massacre, Barker adds to these genres also political dystopia, the forerunners of which were George Orwell and Aldous Huxley. A number of Barker’s stories are made utopian in the real sense of the word by the fact that the time and space of these stories remain unspecified. The scene is often laid in a skilfully created fictional space; the personal and place names are fictional too, and although they might sound Anglo-American, they could easily be found anywhere in the world.


Waanenburg’s Massacre is the goriest book in Estonian literature and well worth its title. The whole book is set in an atmosphere of total war; people among the masses have no hope to get any clear idea about the ongoing processes. There is a war in progress between General Callaghan and his supporters and Major Waanenburg, the commander of rebels. When the rumours about the latter’s defeat and death start spreading, the first person narrator – a geneticist and maker of artificial organs, who has grown up in an orphanage – suddenly discovers that people think that he is the real Waanenburg, and he acts out the role. It soon comes out that he is not the only false Waanenburg, their number grows and the protagonist loses his identity. A symbolic video séance is held between two Waanenburgs: none of them drops the mask, (both use a newspaper to hide their faces), and the main difference between the two deadly enemies lies in the title of the newspaper. Later attempts to clarify his origin take the defeated and crippled protagonist to an extraterrestrial spaceship of high technology, where a lamb, whom everybody tries to destroy, comes back again and again and gives birth to more and more new Waanenburgs…


The plot of the book takes many turns, war is replaced by peace that is no better: ”Again, progress was praised, people were scared with the percentage of unemployment, but encouraged to shop and spend romantic evenings at retailers’ outlets; life was fine, until you did not face the truth. But for those, who were inclined to seek the truth, the authorities had the special commandos, or, even better, the special eye drops, which were sold dirt cheap by mail order and made the world more colourful and the bodies more curvaceous.” Callaghan defeats Waanenburg and cripples him with a virus that is specially developed to destroy all false Waanenburgs. The remains of Waanenburg stay alive with the help of a painkilling vaccine, keeping him from dying and letting him laugh at all his tormentors.


Barker has depicted the polluted gene pool and mutations, physiological processes and the flow of all kinds of liquids from blood to brandy, and war and peace in their most monstrous forms with extraordinary visuality. His book is a seething and purple grotesque of a total war, a warning book that does not lack allusions to political bragging of the peacetime, and contempt for consumerism and politically uneducated masses, who imperil the building of safe future.



Kalev Kesküla. Plato’s Republic. (Platoni riik)

Tallinn, Tuum, 2002. 95 pp


Traditionally, Kristjan Jaak Peterson (1801-1822) is considered to be the first Estonian poet, who, in spite of his short life, had mastered a number of languages and wrote poetry imitating ancient motifs and meters. Antiquity was K. J. Peterson’s romantic ideal and he rather dreamed about Plato’s ideal republic than the future Estonian Republic, which was born about a hundred years after his death. But another romantic dream of Peterson’s was meant to become true – the language of his country became a language of poetry and sought eternity for itself (during his lifetime, language was an effective barrier between social classes and intellectuals spoke the Estonian language very rarely).


Kalev Kesküla’s fifth collection of poetry Plato’s Republic reflects the time, when the Estonian Republic has became a reality already twice in history, and the poet’s word seeks eternity in the framework of a political institution. The ideal, which was once longed for has become a reality and the hints at Plato’s ideal republic lend it some ironic colouring. With this book Kesküla carries on the theme of his previous collection Songs of the Republic, which was given the annual Poetry Award of the Estonian Cultural Endowment in 1998, having now added the subjects of joining the European Union and NATO. ”Estonia is an exceptional country in the world where history has not yet ended”, says the poet in answer to F. Fukuyama in the poem ”Estonian Life”. In another poem he specifies that this history is born on a European common bed made up with white sheets, but with a sagging bottom, because the fate of this nation is so hard/heavy.


Kesküla’s poetry joins the sharp dissecting of current affairs with an extraordinary abundance of allusions. Almost all lines of his free verse poems contain some literary or philosophical hints, they mock some cliché or trend of the daily life, world politics or media and advertising realm; no other author can compete with his attentiveness. His attitude is both ironic and self-ironic: he is both a wine jug full of dreams and sex life, and a hangover middle-aged moralist, who enjoys the wine, and also observes how the time and the independence use his wife in a flat in a sixteen-story residence block. This reminds us of the title of one of his previous poetry collections – A Self-Ironic Lover  (Eneseirooniline armastaja) (1991).


We can define Kesküla also as a postmodernist poet of simultaneity. His poems may mention K. J. Peterson, Jesus Christ or some hero of Greek mythology, who all mind their own business, but still, we see them in the mirror of parody of our own modern world. The poem ”A Flat for Sale” is the best parody of postmodernist society: it is a flat in the midst of pulsating life, its windows open at Wall Street and the Big Ben, at the Golden Gate and the Great Lakes, Côte d’Azur and Sacré-Coeur. Speedy ships shuttle between the continents, but the back lane is governed by garbage ecology and pistolet Makarova (Makarov pistol).


Together with this collection of poetry Kesküla published a collection of essays and columns Cold Homeland (Külm kodumaa), discussing the same subjects in a similar key. In both books he steps forward as a judge of taste and an Epicurean moralist, who appreciates wine and earthly pleasures and strives to find a dimension of depth and height to our life in this world.




Jüri Talvet. Elegia Estonia y otros poemas.

Ciudad de València, Palmart (Colección POESÍA 7), 2002. 108pp

Spanish translation by the author and Albert Làzaro Tinaut


Jüri Talvet is a scholar of Spanish, a translator and professor of world literature at the University of Tartu. (About his poetry, see also Elm No14, Spring 2002.) In addition to that, he is the editor of a voluminous multilingual annual collection of articles on comparative literary criticism Interlitteraria. In 2002 he participated in the publishing of an anthology of modern Estonian poetry Vello ceo nórdico in Santiago de Compostela, Spain, and at the end of the same year he published a collection of his own poems in Spanish and Estonian in Valencia. The collection contains 24 parallel texts in both languages, and an afterword, introducing the author.


The collection opens and closes with two elegies – the first of them is devoted to the ferry Estonia that perished in the stormy Baltic Sea on 28 September 1994, taking 900 people to their wet grave; the second is devoted to the memory of Estonian poet Ivar Ivask (1927-1992), who was the editor of the journal World Literature Today and professor of literature at the University of Oklahoma.


Talvet’s associative and allusive, sometimes epigrammatic and even ironic poetry is largely inspired by world culture and cultural contacts, at the same time affirming that the Estonians are and will be a part of Europe. We can find poems influenced by travel impressions and metaphysical conclusions drawn from these impressions. Sometimes Talvet is ironic and distanced, not dealing with ”eternal” subjects, but rather, with temporary observations on everyday life. However, we can still notice a scholar’s idealism and a glow of the love of freedom, characteristic to classical Romanticists. This is poetry written by poeta doctus, who believes in the balancing force of old Europe in the modern restless world, and values the ethical essence of human spirit.




Jüri Ehlvest. A Horse from Nowhere (Hobune eikuskilt)

Tallinn, Tänapäev, 2002. 218 pp


Jüri Ehlvest (1967) has always been a remarkable and original narrator. But still, his way of narrating, where the author now flees from the reader, now teases him, has left many with the impression that Ehlvest cannot be understood at all. His philosophical and metaphysical stories are full of references to history and history of religion, to the Bible, cabbala, etc. More sensitive reader also perceives that Ehlvest is a master of words, whose texts are so multilayered that some of them may start opening and their mystical landscapes may get comprehensive only after a number of successive readings.


This time, everything seems to be much simpler, and even if it is not, the ten short stories of the collection A Horse from Nowhere offer real enjoyment. I would dare to suggest that so far, this book is the best that Ehlvest has written.


The narrator Ehlvest has an alias in the book, called Ürgar Helves. The name Ürgar could be derived from the Estonian word ’ürgne’, meaning something primeval, or primordial. Ürgar tells stories to another alter ego of the author – writer Krauklis. By the way, Ürgar Helves has his own web site ( where we can find his poems. There are also the verses: At the beginning she sang to me her songs in such a lovely way, but/ only when she drove a broach through me and put me over the spit, only then/ I found the real contact with her music, and after that/ I became one with her.


These verses offer a key to Ehlvest’s world, where there is always something awful lurking in the shadows. But since his stories are fairy-tales of a kind, it is possible to cut off the dragon’s head, to escape from the enchanted forest and so on, but naturally, only in case, when the reader can find the riddle and solve it…


In this book Ehlvest talks more clearly than ever about yearning, deliverance, search for truth, and, of course, about a woman, and about betrayal that can be related to libido, politics or simply to greed. Beautiful Salmea dies because she was betrayed in thoughts, thinking about another woman.


The stories are full of intertextual hints and mix poetic language with everyday speech; layers of fairy-tale and real life are mixed with political and cultural allusions. The result is enviably fascinating.



Toomas Raudam. Against Saint-Proust (Saint-Prousti vastu)

Tallinn, Eesti Keele Sihtasutus, 2002. 203 pp


Toomas Raudam (1947) has given his book a subtitle ”Three Conversations and Nine Eyes”. The book opens with an Introduction to the Reader, where the author says: ”Marcel Proust had intended his book Contre Saint-Beuve as a conversation with his mother. My book relies on this work, and mostly resembles it in its form, but there is also some synchrony in the content of the two books.” He admits that he has adapted this idea for his own purpose, although the idea transformed in the course of writing, and he has looked upon the world through his own eyes and through those of the others. The book thus consists of three conversations with the mother, a child and a woman, and contains nine stories.


Raudam confesses that he is a Proust-addict, or a Proustophile. Under such allusion we could compare Raudam’s work, including prose, film scripts and essays, to a delta, where the flow of a river divides into several channels. To a question: what does Raudam write about? we could answer: about everything, and about the way how all this is perceived, what feelings are involved and how all this could be expressed in a most precise way. In the conversation with the mother she tells him that no matter what he is writing about, he always has to write about home. In the conversation with the child he is asked to talk about knowledge or literature. He talks about both of them. His memory draws from two sources – from literature and his childhood; from the flow of time and from the things he remembers from his childhood. He observes and makes a note about whom do a child, an adolescent and a man talk with, and what do they remember; he analyses time and seeks for the beginning of the beginnings. All the time striving for greater precision, each of Raudam’s texts is like a fabric, consisting of ever-finer threads. He is reaching back, searching for the very first moment, for exciting sensations, memories and impressions, for ultrafine shades of meaning and associations. His universe is complete and unlimited in its own way, he never crashes into borders and always finds a way to continue his journey. Each of his recent new books have been greeted with words that this is the most complete book he has ever written, but each time, Raudam has offered still a new and even better version of his world.


Jüri Tuulik. A Lonely Bird Above the Sea (Üksik lind mere kohal)

Tallinn, Maalehe raamat, 2002. 606 pp


Jüri Tuulik’s voluminous selected collection A Lonely Bird Above the Sea draws together the best of his work. Tuulik (1940) was rather young when he started publishing prose in newspapers; his first book appeared in 1966. Mostly, Tuulik writes short stories, which sometimes may extend to short novels, such as The Crow (Vares). He has also written plays and radio plays. Together with his twin brother (also a writer), Jüri Tuulik is one of the few Estonian authors who write about the sea and the islanders. But foremost, he is a writer of his home place par excellence.


His home is a small island of Abruka, near the largest Estonian island of Saaremaa. Abruka is the scene of most of his stories, characterised by humour and sympathy with the problems of ordinary people. Several of the longer stories of the present collection, such as An Overseas Matter (Meretagune asi) and Homeward Journey (Kojusõit) were written already in the 1970s and have become classical works of the genre. The characters of all his stories are lively people of the island, whose lives are full of strange encounters, as well as dramatics, failed expectations and hopes. Many problems of village life have their roots in alcohol. The origins of emotional wounds often reach back to the past. A bride may have escaped over the sea at the end of the war, or a story of treason may still be remembered.


Tuulik’s stories are loved for their popular language and popular humour. In one story, a stubborn village woman buys a coffin to bring her drunkard husband to his senses, but the husband gladly goes to sleep in the coffin. In another story, another village woman sends for a photographer to take good photos of her funeral while she is still good-looking, for sending to relatives abroad. The photographer is scared out of his wits, when the ’deceased’ in the coffin suddenly has a say about the cost of the photos. Voluble and hard-working women are often the pillars of this small community, since the men spend most of their time philosophising with a bottle. A person’s relations with animals are very often the measure of his soul. In Homeward Journey most of the activities are centred around the memory of a dead dog and on the erecting of a monument to the dog. In The Crow, the measure of human meanness for a young schoolboy is that his foster father has taught a crow to drink beer so that it has became a drunkard.


Most of the stories are set in the Soviet period, but Tuulik is not concerned with the time, but with interpersonal relations, the essence of human nature, and with the breaking up of the village society and the disintegration of moral criteria. His characters live their lives among the elements of nature, they are ethically sensitive, and full of vitality and joy of living.



Jaan Tätte. The Plays (Näidendid).

Tallinn, 2002. 236 pp


Jaan Tätte (1964) is an actor at Tallinn City Theatre, a singer and a playwright. In 2002, he received the Baltic Assembly literary award for his plays The Bridge (Sild, 2000) and A Merry Not-Birthday! (Palju õnne argipäevaks!, 2001). The cultural awards of the Baltic Assembly are given for works of literature and arts, for scholarly research; no playwright has so far received the award.


The Plays presents four of his successful plays to the reading public. The earliest of them are a Christmas play Hello (Tere, 1997), remarkable for its opportunities for improvisation, and Highway Crossing or a Tale of a Goldfish (Ristumine peateega ehk muinasjutt kuldkalakesest), which has been staged at European theatres under the title Bungee Jumping. Laura and Roland, two young people in love, are travelling around, and at some point they ask shelter for the night at the first house where they see a light in the window. They meet a strange man, maybe an eccentric or an idiot, but maybe a skilled manipulator. He puts them to a test and offers them a huge sum of four billion dollars, just like a fairy-tale goldfish. The money is there in large chests, the temptation is too big and the young people do not pass the test: gradually, they are ready for anything to get the money.


The plays that received the award – The Bridge and A Merry Non-Birthday! - are seemingly as simple as the other two. The Bridge is a story about love and about the lack of love. A young girl Leele dreams about love and finds it. In the second act we meet a company of strange middle-aged people, men and women, who try to sort out their relations, and who seem to live an endlessly routine life. They can be just anybody anywhere, nothing specific is said about them. They are looking forward to somebody. We soon learn that they are looking forward to Leele, who is meant to die in an accident. We could ask, what about the bridge, what does this bridge separate or join together? We could also ask, what is this company about, what kind of a curse they are suffering from, can this be changed? The answers mostly depend on the thoughts of the producer of the play.


A Merry Non-Birthday! is an one-act comedy about family relations, about the things that happen when a woman finds a new man and wants all three of them to live together. Again, it is a seemingly simple story, but full of unexpected turns, where people seek for fulfilling their dreams, but find that everything is turned upside down in the end.


All these plays have been very successfully staged. The reason may be that Tätte’s plays tell us about important human problems in an unexpectedly sincere way, but still enabling different interpretations. The investigation of human temptations makes them well understandable in different cultural contexts.



Doris Kareva. Mandragora

Tallinn, Huma, 2002. 105 pp


Doris Kareva (1958) is one of the acknowledged masters of Estonian poetry. Having debuted in 1977, she is the author of 12 collections of poetry. All her books have become literary events, she has found her place among great Estonian poetesses already long time ago. Traditionally, Estonian women’s poetry has been divided into two branches. The head of one branch is Marie Under with the emotional feminine erotic poetry of her youth; the leader of the other branch is the other great poetess of the 20th century Betti Alver with her brilliant intellectual texts and dramatic sense of the world.


On this scale between anima and ratio, Kareva's poetry can undoubtedly be located towards anima. Her poetry is romantic, tender, sensitive and yearning, refined and free of all unnecessary elements.


”If I do not talk about it/ I will die./ If I admit it,/ it will kill me./ Heavens, what can I do?” she asks.


Kareva is again and again talking about great feelings, most often, about love. Sometimes this love is far away, forbidden or unattainable. She can even be called a priestess of love. She fearlessly exposes her passion, there is always something noble and romantic in her love. At the same time, she is discreet. She just as if belongs to some other time, not to the present day. The love Kareva writes about is not an everyday affair, it is not meant for showing for masses. Rather, it is pure and elevating like mountain air. ”High magic seldom talks, but when it talks, it is clear”, she says, and ”when we are together, we are/ the universe, we are transfigured/ we are the chaos”.


Her poetry is characterised by dreams, yearning and words sent to 'you'. ”The air is blossoming”, or ”the dreams burst into blossoms”; the poet’s ”eyes are the stalactites in the cave of the night” and ”I and you live at the foot of a volcano”. Sometimes she writes about the universe and about some moments or phenomena in it, but more often she simply talks about 'you and I'. But even 'you and I' are not placed outside history, blood flows from the history book and the stakes are rising. Life is an eternal glow or radiance, governed by fate. Fatality is mysterious and unavoidable, the 'I' is weak and open, ready to obey or fight. And finally, cool and solemn silence envelops all. Such is the circle of Kareva’s poetry and as that, it is loved.



Vaino Vahing. Games and Conversations (Mängud ja kõnelused)

Tallinn, Eesti Keele Sihtasutus, 2002. 535 pp


Vaino Vahing (1940) is considered to be the main representative of psychoanalytical trend in Estonian literature. Psychiatrist by profession, he has devoted the last 30 years to literary work and has found appreciation as an author of short prose, plays and essays. In addition to these genres, he has lately published several of his diaries where he had recorded cultural and society life of the earlier decades.


Games and Conversations contains eight plays and nine conversations that are in fact interviews with Vaino Vahing conducted at different dates. These conversations can, to a certain extent, be related to his diaries, but their passionate spontaneity also resembles his plays. In all his work and throughout his life, Vahing has much valued two features, which characterise man as a biological being – subjectivity and spontaneity. Vahing’s creative method could, therefore, be characterised as deep psychological realism where a human being is stripped of his cultural veneer so that his conflicts and brutal instincts can be examined. The author himself avoids the notion of realism, and rather stresses the importance of authenticity and documentarism in his work.


Vahing’s drama texts are centred upon individual people; according to his creed the actor – a personality in conflict with itself and with its environment – must dominate the stage, not the ensemble or the producer. One of the keys to Vahing’s work is Spiel (game), resembling psychological drama, which is the founding force of his plays: the characters often act unmotivatedly, putting to the test themselves and each other, apply spiritual terror or show sado-masochistic inclinations. The author has never denied that he always writes about himself; he has experienced or auto-suggested the situations he describes. When using historical material, he shapes it to his liking and joins together extreme documentarism and intuitional experience. However, he gladly uses mystification and unexpected alienating effects. In 2002, a drama studio staged his first play End of Potter (Potteri lõpp), written about 30 years ago and then lost for a long time, where the protagonist does not appear on stage at all, and where the characters now and then make remarks about their acting in the play. We can find here hints to Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, but even more, to existentialist ethics and Søren Kierkegaard.


Vahing avoids social themes and ideologies, politics and social criticism. His dramas are full of psychological tensions, elegance and passion, role-play and splitting of personalities, and the drama of creating literature, as well as these personalities.