I Loved a Russian. Them


Ma armastasin venelast. Nemad

I Loved a Russian. Them (Novels, Estonian)
Published by Tänapäev, 2004, pp. 278

The national context of the intertextuality of Maimu Berg's novel begins with its title. In 1935 the classic of Estonian literature Anton Hansen Tammsaare published a novel "I Loved a German", analysing the national complexes of Estonians, who had been living under alien power, in their attitude toward Baltic Germans. Maimu Berg examines the complexes brought forth by other suppressers - Russians, who were customarily often identified with Soviet power. In a wider intertextual context "I Loved a Russian" has also been considered as Estonian "Lolita". The author refers to the common context of Socialist past in Eastern Europe, as the scene is laid alternatively in the past and the present, namely in an international resort for artists in Germany, where artists and writers of different nationalities meet. Using her characters the author has been able to show the anxieties of the postcommunist world and the common problems of the postwar generation. This contemporary travelogue is still only a package for a diachronic retrospect, which tells us about a teenage girl, whose recently awakened sexuality means clinging to an older man, a doctor of Russian nationality. She is fascinated by the man because of his being of the other sex and his being a foreigner. The man cannot resist the temptation, they find mutual joy in the love story, which is sharpened by the taste of forbidden fruit. But when there is sin, people have to pay. The likeable Russian is sent to prison for seducing a minor. The novel stresses erotic tensions and the control of a totalitarian society over privacy. In this refined work there are plenty of powerful symbols to help to interpret the intriguing love story. A young inexperienced girl is like a new state, a mature man could be a conqueror. One can tempt an alien, to learn from him, even love him, but one has to betray him in the first possibility. Apart from the novel, the book also contains an ironic short story "They" depicting both everyday and existential struggles of an intellectual couple and trying to evaluate the place of the author's own generation, the generation of the 1960s (i.e. those who went to university in 1960s), in a changing world.

Text by Rutt Hinrikus

First published in the Estonian Literary Magazine

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