neljapäev, november 30, 2006

Estonia's Second Line

Does it ever seem to you like Estonia's politics are controlled by a handful of powerful individuals, yet at the same time there is an impressive "back bench" of political players that never seem to rise to the top?

It does to me. For some time now Estonia has been dominated by three men, Mart Laar, who recently assumed the helm of the union of Res Publica and Isamaaliit, Edgar Savisaar, the focal point of Keskerakond, and Prime Minister Andrus Ansip, who stepped into the vaccuum left by Siim Kallas when he moved to Brussels. With the exception of Ansip, both Laar and Savisaar go back at least 15 years in Estonian politics, and it is highly likely that both could regain control of the country several times before the retire.

But what of the other politicians with promise? Are they destined to play a game of musical ministerial chairs ad infinitum? I have to say I was a bit disappointed that Jaak Aaviksoo, the former rector of Tartu University, did not assume the helm of the IRL, when the parties merged earlier this year. I fully understand that Laar - who has had plenty of experience in politics - may have been the more pragmatic choice, but at the same time I was hungry for new blood as I am sure most people are.

And I wonder if a change in party leadership, if Rein Lang, for example, became head of the Reform Party, or if Siiri Oviir ran Keskerakond, would make a difference. Perhaps we would have a better idea about what exactly these parties stand for, beyond who leads them. It is my personal hope that the elections of 2007 will shake the Estonian political process up a bit. I welcome the Rohelised and whatever defections they might bring from parties as diverse as IRL and Eestimaa Rahvaliit. Hopefully a new balance can be achieved that moves beyond the current electoral see-saw.

24 kommentaari:

B. Kriplur ütles ...

What ever happened to Jaan Kross? I don't know much about Estonian politics, but I read a book by him and I also read that he was also in politics. Is he still around?

Giustino ütles ...

Is he still around?

I think he's decided to cultivate his role as "voice of the nation." His name added a lot of weight to the letter of support Ilves got from the national intelligentsia before the electoral college met in September.

Andres Sehr ütles ...

Jaan Kross is 80 years old so I don't think he'll be running for office anytime soon.

I personally think that a lot of the really talented people in Estonia tend to eschew politics for business at the moment. There are a lot of incredibly bright people in Estonia but a lot of them concentrate on making their own personal situation better but I wouldn't be surprised to see some of them put their hats into the ring in the future.

the other Mel ütles ...

Jaan is not in the best of health, but still with us and feisty. I know my friend Eric Dickens is hoping to translate another one of his books into English in the near future. His son could get himself into politics, but way, way too much baggage.

I'm all for more "fresh blood" in politics, though Aaviksoo is not exactly fresh (nor was Tulviste and others).

I would actually argue that the old "Eesti Kongress" and the Popular Front cleavage is still visible, notably by the Laar and Savisaar personas. In many ways, the Ilves/Rüütel election was a manifestation of it. Let's see what March brings. It could be both Laar and Savisaar's last push for power -- Mart's got other things he wants to pursue, Eddie's probably not gonna remain in good enough health.

B. Kriplur ütles ...

Another question - is he well liked in Estonia?

Also, are there other Estonian writers translated into English?

Giustino ütles ...

By the way, what's the status of translating Kivirähk's Rehepapp? ALmost every Estonian I have spoken to that is under 40 regards him as the new "national author" (see ya, Tammsaare!)

notsu ütles ...

Have you read "Rehepapp", Giustino? and think it could be an interesting read for those not already very familiar with Estonia and its mythology?
Even for those familiar, I'd rather suggest "French ja Koulu". It says as much about Estonia, but has much more of a plot. And is at least as funny.

B. Kriplur, "Border State" by Emil Tode (pseudonym of Õnnepalu) exists in English; if you are into modernism, there is a couple of books by Mati Unt. Poetry by Kaplinski. Quite incredibly, there is nothing by Viivi Luik in English (but if you read French or German, some of her books have been translated into those languages). I read at
http://www.stephen-spender.org/SSMTrust/ssmt_translation.htm
that they started working at it.

In general, more Estonian authors have been translated into German and French than in English, don't know why...

Jens-Olaf ütles ...

Translation into German happened in the 90s almoust: Kross, Luik, Valton, Unt and others but since 2000 there are rarely new ones.

Franz ütles ...

"Jaan Kross is 80 years"
Actually he is 86 years old

plasma-jack ütles ...

Another question - is he well liked in Estonia?

Among the reading population, he's an icon. His last novel wasn't very good, but altogether he surely is as important as Tammsaare, if we're talking about popular Estonian prose. As for me, i like his works very much.

the other Mel ütles ...

Problem with translating Estonian literature into English is always the translator. There are so few around, and many of them work on shorter stuff (poetry, etc). The best guy out there is my friend Eric Dickens, who did the last 2 Kross things. The earlier ones by Anselm Hollo, were actually translated mainly from the Finnish translation. Never good.

I actually blame the väliseestlased for not doing much. They complain about the inertia over the decades of occupation back in the homeland, but they dropped the ball in this respect outside of the kodumaa too.

Giustino ütles ...

Have you read "Rehepapp", Giustino? and think it could be an interesting read for those not already very familiar with Estonia and its mythology?

I haven't read it. Most Estonians I have spoken with say it illustrates how secretly evil they are as a people.

Tiia ütles ...

What suggestions would readers here have for Estonian books that absolutely need to be translated into English? Besides Rehepapp... I'm not sure if I would go there... :)

notsu ütles ...

I think "The Seventh Spring of Peace" by Luik (Seitsmes rahukevad) should be translated.
Late Jüri Ehlvest's short stories, maybe.

If it is translatable, I'd suggest the comic book "Tagurpidi":))) by Priit Pärn. I've heard that Danes have done it - under the name of "Rejsen til Sønderomvendt" - and that it is quite popular among Danish children. Check out the web facsimile of the original:
http://home.cyber.ee/arne/tagurpidi/

Jens-Olaf ütles ...

The Seventh Spring of Peace is great. If you do not need the daily headlines about history and her interpretation, read that book.

cbr ütles ...

I haven't read it. Most Estonians I have spoken with say it illustrates how secretly evil they are as a people.

Well if you don't know ANYTHING about Estonian literature, history, everyday life and mythology, then it's pretty dull to read, I imagine. It's like me watching American sitcoms, where they make jokes about some controversial person of public interest who I know nothing about. So the fake-audience is all dying of laughter and I'm like "Uhm.. okay.. who is mentioned guy and why is it funny?"

cbr ütles ...

Well actually it's not all that bad, because it has some pretty nice fantasy in it etc, but the point between the lines might be missed.

Franz ütles ...

Kivirähk's "Rehepapp" was translated into Finnish. But this book was not successfull in Finland

Tiia ütles ...

I remember that it was in the process of being translated into French as well, Rehepapp, I mean - we had to do excerpts of it in our Estonian-French translation course in Tartu (how convenient...right?). That had us sweating. I'm not sure if it ever got published. Jaan Tätte was, "Ristumine peateega", that wasn't so bad. I think that maybe the one that Tätte did with Murutar - "Kuhu kuningad kadusid", maybe that would be a good introduction to Estonian culture and history... well, history, mainly.

notsu ütles ...

Does anybody know if children's books "Naksitrallid" (Three Jolly Fellows), "Sipsik" and "Kunksmoor" have been translated into English? If not, they should be.

I just read on google that Tammsaare's "Truth and Justice" has been translated, but I don't know how good is it.
Same about O. Luts's "Spring" (Kevade) - it seems to exist in English, but is it any good? could have been hard work, considering that Luts was the one who invented spoken language in Estonian literature.

Some other suggestions: Ristikivi's "Lohe hambad" (Dragon's Teeth);
anything by Juhan Jaik (a marvellous world of South Estonian ghost-stories, mostly very funny and intentionally so);
Andres Ehin's surrealist poetry.
Gailit, perhaps?

Tiia ütles ...

Yes - I know Sipsik first hand, did a paper for Torop and the semiotics of translation on that book. It was terrible... There were many many many mistakes and that book ended up as being more entertaining for adults than interesting for children...

Tiia ütles ...

Sorry Justin, this conversation here is way off topic when it comes to the original post - maybe you could do one about Estonian literature in the world if you have time and if it interests you?

plasma-jack ütles ...

Eesti Keele Instituut, Eesti Keele Teabekeskus & similar bodies translate Estonian prose and especially poetry into foreign languages. Check out a poem of one of the most important young Estonians poets, Jürgen Rooste, tranlasted into English by Eric Dickens:

http://www.estlit.ee/index.php?id=1996

plasma-jack ütles ...

why do we need poetry
does it somehow help
to give up alcohol
by god’s arse
I said “give up alcohol”
why give it up
it’s our national idiosyncrasy
a trademark more powerful than ”welcome to estonia”
I will motherfuckin’ phone ya
then we’ll go to a bar
already hemingway knew
that in each port in the world
there’s an estonian
completely plastered
pissed and broke