Complex communism

Jerome de Groot on Things in the Night

Things in the Night by Mati Unt, Dalkey Archive Press, £8.99

Mati Unt was a member of the Estonian "Sixties Generation", a group who rose to prominence in the latter part of that decade and benefited from the relatively open nature of the communist regime. For instance, the relatively uncensored translation into Estonian of key American and European works in the late 1960s and early 1970s influenced Unt's own brand of absurdist modernism. His writing reflects the inchoate fragmentation common to Eastern European writing of the latter part of the century. Things in the Night is uncanny, meandering, complex, paranoid and gnomic. A disconnected sense of doom pervades the pages. Multiple narratives of unusual and uncommon occurrences are presented and then ignored or changed, circulating around particular ideas and anxieties. The prose reminds me of what happens when you use Internet translation engines: the results are random, perplexing and strange, tending towards profound meaning without getting there. This novel is incoherent - intentionally disordered. Unt is an important writer but Things in the Night will frustrate more than enthral.

The Guardian, Saturday April 8 2006

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