E.L. (Edward Lucas), Eastern Approaches, Economist.com
SOFI OKSANEN is probably the best-known living novelist writing about Estonia. Many Estonians are thrilled that her novel "Purge" has done so well (this blog gave it a rapturous review a few months ago). Estonia's president Toomas Hendrik Ilves gave her a medal. But some Estonians are less keen. Jaan Kaplinski, probably the country's most heavyweight writer (his fans hope he may win a Nobel prize for literature one day) had a crack at her on his blog in August.
My only, but very serious objection to the book is that it pretends to be a realistic story about life in Soviet Estonia in the second half of the XXth century.... S. O. who has no direct experience of the time and events she describes has taken parts of our life, sewing them together according to some age-old rules of ideological-mythological literature, and is now selling it in the West. She is selling something that pretends to be our life, but isn't. Our life in the Soviet Union was not a horror story! Of course, there were many horrific episodes, years of terror and counter-terror, but as a whole, we lived a life that was often quite interesting and funny. I cannot approve the idea that my life, the life of my parents, my friends, my colleagues was not a life worth living, that we felt we were prisoners in a large prison camp. The USSR after the death of Stalin was not a prison camp. It was a lousy country, but there were and there are many much more lousy countries in the world. ... I don't want anybody to take my life away from me and sell an adulterated version of it to unknowing people abroad.
That passed largely unnoticed. But now the Estonian journalist Piret Tali has returned to the attack (link in Estonian), accusing her of "wallowing in violence". The controversy is summarised, (in French) by Estonia-Tallinn, an expat blogger and in the English edition of Helsingin Sanomat.
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Popular abroad, under fire at home (2)