Mare Müürsepp: Our Leelo

I’ll start with children’s assessment. We had a group of third-grade students draft a list of who they believed were important public figures in Estonia. We used the list to make a presentation for our foreign pen-pals entitled “Famous Estonians”. Tied for first place in the children’s ranking were Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves, a teenage world-champion freestyle skier, and Leelo Tungal. Clearly, Tungal is not an “ordinary” children’s author, but a symbolic figure.... Read more

Brita Melts: Peripheries of (be)longing in contemporary Estonian literature

While the topic of confession and a deluge of biographies were items of discussion in Estonian literature during the first decade of this century, the next wave can now be noted: contemporary Estonian literature is undergoing a boom in landscape-centric self-presentation and works that center on the individual. Numerous works describe landscape experiences that are clearly based on autobiographical material, at the core of which are subjects that share biographical details identical to those of the authors. These experiences form a unique subjective model world, a literary mindscape that allows dreams and fantasies to exist alongside realistic details. For the most part, this mindscape is constructed in the immediate vicinity of the author’s home or in a place that is meaningful to him or her for some other reason, such as the site of the writer’s former home, a country cabin, or a grandparent’s home. Thus, the landscape transferred into the literature always possesses a geographical referent that is familiar to the author and recognizable to the native reader. At the same time, locational descriptions also encompass dreams, sensory manifestations, personal emotions, memory threads, poetizations of a site’s inherent features, a very selective attitude towards details of terrain, and the imposition of subjective meanings on the environment, and described just as sharply in the realistic sections are the region’s geography, structures, everyday life, documented events, personal thoughts, locals’ fates, etc. This is a unique interweaving of documentary and fiction, which carries the author’s need to explain his or her ordinary environment and map out meaningful landscapes.... Read more

Some who live the Estonian language

The Estonian Literature Centre has a magnificent tradition of inviting translators of Estonian literature who hail from all around the world to converge on the northern village of Käsmu, wedged between a primeval forest and the sea. The latest grand translators’ seminar, which was held in June 2016, was made special by the fact that the Centre is celebrating its 15th anniversary. Altogether 45 translators from 19 different countries – not to mention a large number of prominent Estonian authors – gathered in the village. Literature was introduced, authors discussed their works, and the densely-packed days transitioned smoothly into evenings of music and dance. ELM took the opportunity to ask a few members of the Estonian literary translation family what fascinated them most about their field, and which Estonian authors or literary works they would recommend reading.... Read more