Hector and Bernard


Hector ja Bernard

Hector and Bernard (Novels, Estonian)
Published by Tuum, 2004, pp. 232

Rein Raud is a solitary figure in Estonian literature. In 1981 he published his first book of poetry “Barefoot” (Paljajalu), suggesting an image of a man walking barefoot on the mud, while nobody follows the track of his footprints. This early self-prophesy has later been repeatedly confirmed. Raud has steadily followed his autonomous path in poetry and in prose, inasmuch as a translator: his brilliantly virtuosic translations of classical Japanese poetry are without comparison and have found true readers, reluctant to leave the book for a single sleepless night. 

“Hector and Bernard” (Hector ja Bernard, 2004) is a philosophical dialogue in contemporary settings. Two intellectuals from different generations express their opinions about the world of today and its prospects. The tone is easy and conversational, while the issues discussed are often pretty serious, concerning the paradoxes of modern life and the fate of our civilization. The dominant attitude of the book may be characterized as “anarchism in an armchair”, as some critics have called it. Raud is not a convinced pessimist, but he is eager to dissipate illusions, preferring unpleasant truths. One might say that it is a book of a classical moralist, discussing about women, love, society and other fundamental issues in human life.

By the author’s own words, he has split his own personality into two fictional protagonists: Hector and Bernard, one of them twenty years younger, the other twenty years older than himself. “In the very beginning, when I started to write it, I intended to make a sort of a platonic dialogue . . . but it turned out to be more like Voltaire’s Candide, a philosophical essay-novel.” Hector and Bernard are thinkers, who don’t express their ideas just because it is their job, or because they’ve received a Ph. D. -- they are not philosophers from 9 A.M to 5 P.M., ceasing to think abstract thoughts after closing time. It is their way of life. Obviously the author’s principal aim is to offer a model of resistance against the new illiteracy, and against the cynical indifference ruling the media and politics of today.

Text by Hasso Krull

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