The Others

Short stories

Teised

Others (Short stories, Estonian)
Published by Tuum, 2012, pp. 176

Elo Viiding (b. 1974) was not even an adult when she debuted as a mature and original poet in 1990. The “star children”, described in one of her short stories, who have “sharp minds and quick wits and establish their own rules everywhere they go” and who “could, despite the surrounding rigidity, create a world where it was possible to talk about everything, where there was no place for stupidity and obedience, caution and prejudice” were, obviously, not a motif found in an empty space. In all of Viiding's nine collections of poetry and three collections of short stories, her subject matter includes the being of woman, dissatisfaction with woman's place and opportunities in society, as well as corporeality, psychoanalytical puzzles, and intellectual sharp irony and social criticism. Viiding's relations with the world are brittle and full of anxiety; there is not much space for empathy because Viiding's stakes are high, but they meet a dead end: she protests against the bourgeoisie, against superficiality and mental weakness, against soullessness and the lack of individuality. This is the protest of a personality that craves independence, beauty and naturalness against the environment that suppresses singularity, a protest led by vague identity-related perplexities and expectations. Viiding is neither loud nor desperate, but presents this protest as a taciturn but proud observer. Thus we can say that, although all of Viiding's works are full of similar, familiar themes, dark images and stylistically refined compositions, in each one we can still find new twists and aspects.

The psychoanalytical foundation of Viiding's work has grown firmer in recent years. This is also a dominant factor in her third collection of short stories, The Others, containing six stories which focus on human and especially on female anxieties, uneasiness, feelings of guilt and struggles, all presented in an icy, arrogant, even callous way. The book mainly explores body-related anxieties; almost all of the stories discuss problems related to a woman's body (sexuality, desire, “vicious arousal”, procreation and motherhood). The central motif is endurance, which embodies woman's role of continuation through her offspring. The same motif, the problem of enduring, its motivation and possibilities, carried Viiding's previous collection of poetry (Enduring, 2011).

In a painful and ironic way, Viiding discusses the situation in which a woman cannot or does not wish to fulfil the role assigned to her by society: motherhood and a woman's supposedly natural state. “Women feel the obligation and oppressing indebtedness to Endurance. And, naturally, the feeling of guilt when they have not submitted to Endurance.” And what will happen to a woman who has not submitted to endurance, who has chosen a path that does not submit to social demands (of procreation)? When a woman represents a biological or mental shift from the norm and, shielded by her creativity, enjoys destructiveness? When a woman simply wants to love, not to endure? In this case, the woman is a “blank woman”; “in the eyes of society, I was at each step a woman who could be cancelled, because I was not a real woman.” Reconciliation can be found by admitting that the spirit and the body are not two different aspects but, in order to find harmony within oneself, a person's body and spirit need to be in harmony.

Viiding is able to draw out people who feel some oppressing heaviness, who live in hiding with their anxieties. Her form of expression is tense, intriguing and exact. She has maintained her cold and ironical alienation from the formal world and everyday routine; all her stories are complete in their compositional and thematic balance and intellectual charge.

Text by Brita Melts

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