Letters to Aunt Anne


Kirjad tädi Annele

Letters to Aunt Anne (Novels, Estonian)
Published by Jumalikud Ilmutused, 2010, pp. 239

Urmas Vadi’s first novel, Letters to Aunt Anne (Kirjad tädi Annele, 2010) is an epistolary book in form. It is a curious work about writing a novel and being a writer in itself. The story goes as follows: a young writer, a narrator bearing the same name as the author of the book, writes to “Aunt Anne” for the first time in May 2008, promising to dedicate himself to writing. He is finally going to fulfil the expectations of his profession instead of wasting time on different things he has been doing up to then: writing the plays, film scripts, and texts that he is asked to write. The novel consists of eleven letters from over the period of about one year, and seven different excerpts sent to Aunt Anne. The author of the letters is a fantastic storyteller, and the correspondence itself often transforms into actual tales. The novel seems to already have a title: The Anatomy of Foxes. Seemingly beginning as a metatext about writing a novel, the letters even contain the first two chapters of the book to describe the writing process. However, the author has an immediate surprise in store: instead of continuing, he conveys to Aunt Anne different pieces that he has written for several reasons. The stories he includes are bizarre: they are surprising and deeply humorous, frightening, sad, very realistic, and abruptly entirely surreal. Things from everyday life are mixed with absurd fantasy and black humour in a dreamlike and yet familiar world with local Estonian place names – the living and the dead meet with self-evident ease. Still, every text delves deep into the experience of being a writer. The Death of Tartu goes into the very young man’s days beginning his career and meeting the writer E (the prototype is the well-known Estonian writer Jüri Ehlvest), and confronting him to become a writer himself. Here, meeting personalized Death in Tartu’s marketplace seems to be the most logical thing in the world. Of the two other longer stories, Revident (Inspector) is a sort of thriller, in which the writer goes to live for a few days in a village of Russian Orthodox Old-Believers and write a story there. He becomes entangled in an old legend told in the village, and meets the Devil. Toonesepad (Death Watch Beetles) describes an old wooden house, in which the writer lives together with his cousins. The issue of fame arises in the story: as selling the apartment of a dead writer seems to be easier, he has to fake his death. Although the segments resemble fragments in a way, they still make up a whole. The novel ends with a poem written to the writer’s son, humorously and yet seriously summing up the fears he has: most of all, the fear that his son will become a writer, too.

Text by Elle-Mari Talivee

10 Books from Estonia, 2012

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