Magical Mystical Language


Maagiline müstiline keel

Magical Mystical Language (Essays, Estonian)
Published by Underi ja Tuglase Kirjanduskeskus, 1998, pp. 352

This collection brings together ten texts, six of which have been published earlier. In his preface, the author suggests that the book could be read as a novel consisting of short stories. Each part of the book is an entity by itself, but they have been put together according to a certain composition. Comparison with fiction is quite obvious, as the first thing that strikes the reader of Undusk’s book is his exceptionally expressive and passionate language, full of images and sometimes, unusually for a critical text, even full of metaphors.

Magical Mystical Language is not so much a discussion of singular literary problems, but taken as a whole, it is rather an expression of a theoretical worldview. The central terms of this theory are "substance, substantiality, magical word, mystical figure, magical/mystical principle of creation, silence, proper name," etc. Undusk’s treatment of literature, as clarified by his texts, is ontological, substantial, derived from the mysticists of European culture and Spinoza, going deep, and undisturbed by current trends. Of course, he does not ignore current trends: the introductory chapter "Substance and Deconstruction" embodies excellent polemics with Derrida - Undusk takes his doctrine as a theoretical mutation of the legend of the Wandering Jew. The greater part of the book discusses well-known subjects from world culture, Goethe’s, Hamann’s, Herder’s and the mysticists’ use of language, Friedrich Nietzsche’s rhetorics and his need for confession, etc.

In its most important parts Undusk’s book expresses the striving towards "mystical" reality that is beyond language, but it also examines the scope of the "magical" capability of language. The witty article Mystical and Magical Signs of Stalinism is based on concrete linguistic material. It discusses A Poem to Stalin, written by Estonian poet Juhan Smuul, and discovers in it deep religiousness, which is hidden behind the system of Stalinist signs.

Undusk’s book of literary philosophy is a monument to the substantial word, and being located on the border of fiction and metaliterature, it enriches both.

Text by Janika Kronberg and Rutt Hinrikus

First published in the Estonian Literary Magazine no. 8

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