Vana arm ei roosteta (Old love never rusts) (9)
So far it is available in Estonian only but the writing style is such that it is fairly easy going for those of us that usually feel more comfortable reading English.
Külvet was a keen observer of expatriate Estonian society as it then was. Some would maintain that things have not changed much; however, that is a matter of individual opinion.
My mother avidly read his articles in Vaba Eestlane. At home I would often hear her chortling over Külvet’s latest article, usually written under his pen name Vox Populi.
Külvet was adept at pricking the inflated egos of self-appointed and pompous community leaders, especially those having rigid and unrealistic ideological outlooks. Usually this was done through satire. He also had the ability to laugh at himself. I have heard that he sometimes wrote with a sharp pen and was not afraid to tackle controversial topics. As a result, he must have been about as popular in certain quarters as a skunk at a garden party, something I can sometimes personally relate to.
What brought the book to mind recently was the article he wrote about Seedrioru Suvihari 1965 which I have translated and summarized below. Suvihari back then was always a major event and attendance was regularly at least four or five times as large as now. Its high-water mark was probably the first ESTO in 1972.
Among the chrome jungle of limousines parked on the hill above the outdoor theatre Külvet ran into a group of young highly educated scientists from the U.S. They had stopped along the way in Toronto and purchased a brand new large garbage can which they had filled with mood improving beverage. They were friendly people and invited him to share a couple of cupfuls of their concoction which he did.
When Külvet went to excuse himself to go and listen to the performance so that he could write about it for the paper, one of the genial young men, a PHD in chemistry no less (wonder who that could have been), laughed, reached over offering another cup of tasty elixir and suggested Külvet stay and enjoy himself. His group had lots of experience reading Estonian expatriate newspapers, knew all about them and could give him advice on how to do it the easy way without having to leave at all.
They explained to Külvet that all readers knew beforehand what he was going to write. Everything was fantastic and this was yet another significant successful cultural/patriotic event for the Estonian exile community. All he had to do was to throw in the names which he could get from the program, sprinkle a few more superlatives to taste as required. That’s all there was to it.
This sounded reasonable to Külvet so he stayed until dawn when the garbage can, now empty, rolled down the hill. The friendly advice he had received rang in his ears for some time.
Perhaps we have all written thus.
Anyway, a thought provoking, yet easy reading book about our expatriate society as it was prior to the collapse of the evil empire and also Ilmar Külvet’s journey through life.
It is highly recommended, especially so if you would like to hone your Estonian language reading skills. I am informed that copies are still available at Estonian House bookstore.