neljapäev, august 30, 2007

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Tammsaare

School time is almost here and with it the long delayed and highly controversial Estonian 2007 school reform, whereby all incoming tenth graders in Russian-language high schools will have one course in Estonian language. This year's course is, appropriately, Estonian literature.

If you ask any eestlane with a pulse these days who the Estonian national writer is, they are likely to respond that it is Andrus Kivirähk, the 37-year-old author of the infamous novel Rehepapp where Estonian serfs are portrayed as the greedy masterminds behind naive landowners.

Estonians enjoy the image of themselves as the backstabbing, crafty, downright evil people portrayed in Kivirähk's book, but the truth is that his scheme borrows from characters in the master work of Estonian literature, whom every 16-year-old Maksim and Darja in Ida-Virumaa will come to know intimately this autumn, Tõde ja Õigus by Anton Hansen Tammsaare.

As an Estonian who lives through the 1905 revolution as a young man, the establishment of the Estonian state in near middle age, and managed to check out just two months shy of the June 1940 Soviet takeover (lucky fellow), Tammsaare painted in this national epic a vision of his young country coming into being. It is still an important work, important enough that Tammsaare is still regularly name dropped -- though ironically -- by those in the arts.

However, he is less famous for his sweeping tale of Estonia's birth than for his portrayal of regular country Estonians, the maarahvas, who are the same swindling, double-dealing bastards depicted in Rehepapp. This is how Estonians see themselves. National self-deprecation is part of being an Estonian. It's all there in the literature.

Anyway, as part of the Haridus ja Teadus Ministerium's evil plan to make all Russian-speaking teens in Estonia miserable, other subjects in Estonian language will be added so that by 2011, the 20 percent of Estonian pupils who attend Russian-language schools in Estonia will have 60 percent of their upper education in Estonian, condemning them to a life of alcoholism, mulgipuder consumption, and ironic references to Tammsaare.

It is hoped that other than the difference between the words 'puder' and 'põder', the school reform might teach them a bit more about what exactly it means to be part of this tribe called Estonians.

8 kommentaari:

Juan Manuel ütles ...

condemning them to a life of alcoholism, mulgipuder consumption, and ironic references to Tammsaare. :D That's cruel.

According to the eekipedia article the gospel of mulgipuder was actually preached by soviet dining rooms:

Enne nõukogude kolhoosisööklate aega mereäärsetes Eesti piirkondades mulgiputru ei tuntud.

I think that what many people really need to be fluent is classes in Estonian, not just classes of Estonian. So this will probably be very helpful for them to integrate.

Blogaddict ütles ...

Ever wondered why houses in our villages are miles apart?

That's right. Boiled cabbage.

If you don't know what I'm talking about, try mulgipuder. Ask for seconds and you are all set. :-)

Mait ütles ...

There's quit a bit of difference between the two writers, though. Whereas Tammsaare takes several tomes (5, was it?) of longwinded prose to bring his point across, Kivirähk manages to paint the same picture in a couple of hundred pages of tight, witty writing.

Compulsory Tammsaare was a royal pain to gnaw through during my own school days - and I read a LOT. I hope the teachers manage to slip in some Kivirähk or other more contemporary writers/poets, else the 'Estonian Lit in Estonian' project might very well have a detrimental effect on the youngsters' interest in our culture.

plasma-jack ütles ...

Exactly. Give em Kaus, Heinsaar, Kender, Rooste, Kivisildnik, Kivirähk, not Traat, Tammsaare & Vilde.

plasma-jack ütles ...

not that there was anytrhing wrong with Vilde or Tammsaare. But 15-year-olds don't care about deeper meanings of life. They dig humor, love and rebellion.

Andres ütles ...

I never finished Tõde ja õigus I to be honest. Just too damn boring. I felt guilty after that... but haven't finished it anyway :P

I also didn't like the fact that everybody talked about it like the "true Estonian story". To me it sounded like "you're forefathers are a bunch of drunk hillbillies who dug trenches and fought over nothing and you better like it, 'cause you're the same!". The true Estonian story should be remade every single day by everyone alive on this land IMO. It should never be written. I liked Jaan Kross' "Wikmani poisid" though. A much more pleasant "good ol' Estonian story". Tammsaare seems to archaic.

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