Noted writer, critic, artist, poet and cultural commentator Linnar Priimägi has noted, in his Protocol cultural diary on ERR's Estonian online culture portal, the significance of President Kersti Kaljulaid's meeting with Vladimir Putin last week. He also looks at the dangers of over-complicating concepts, in violation of Ockham's razor, and of the need for mediocre literature.
22.04.2019 Two Presidents
The President of the Republic of Estonia met with Vladimir Putin, noone expected it – not even Putin, not to mention (Reform MP and former Riigikogu foreign affairs committee chair.-ed.) Marko Mihkelson. But they met.
First of all, it's not nice to call out a woman for her actions. And second, her step in going to the meeting was as out of the blue as Lennart Meri's when, on meeting Boris Yeltsin in 1994, he announced that Russian troops would withdraw from Estonia – I'd have been more ready for my grandmother to dance with the devil (the Russian Federation agreed to withdraw the last of its troops stationed in Estonia, a relic of the Soviet occupation, in that year-ed.).
Naturally, NATO is hardly going to leave Estonia too, as much as ''they'' might encourage them to do so. But the president's move had a subconscious logic. Let's have NATO right here on the Russian border – but at the same time we need to ditch the image of a small, angry ''nazi'' country. The longest journey also starts with the first step, and it was a step which the president took, bravely, and alone. But courage always involves being alone, always as yourself.
I have decided, then, that president Kaljulaid should be dubbed ''the girl from Kadriorg'' no more.
23.04.2019 Ockham and the clouds
I called the great (ufologist and researcher-ed.) Igor Volke and invited him to the Von Glehni theatre in Nõmme, to try to decipher the mysterious crop circles that have been appearing in England. Naturally, I'm aware of the phenomenon, and attempts to explain it in extraterrestrial terms, mocking the more worldy explanations. I'm not an expert, though during my Tartu days, I had similar conversations with (writer and filmmaker-ed.) Jüri Lina in his modest home. It didn't turn me into a ufologist. I went to a meeting arranged by Tunne Kelam MEP, at a kindergarten. We sat in circle on low, baby chairs and talked about the phenomena coming from the heavens. I even made a presentation there, as I recall entitled ''Ufology and Cosmology'', the text of which should be recorded somewhere in Tartu, if anyone wants to check.
That said, I am all for the principle of Ockham's razor. If something can be explained using the fewest concepts, there is no need to complicate matters by introducing more explanations – in fact these should be shaved off, excluded. ''Omnes nium nocet'' – everything that is redundant will do harm. It is only when the global exploration resources, both '' in actu et in potentia'', are exhausted, that we can start predicting the clouds.
According to the Bible: ''For these nations, which thou shalt possess, hearkened unto observers of times, and unto diviners: but as for thee, the LORD thy God hath not suffered thee so to do,'' (Deutoronomy 18:14, KJV).
I nonetheless still pay attention to what the smarter people talk about. Go and find out for yourself – maybe they're right!
24.04.2019 Mediocrity is useful
A copy of ''The private memoirs of the court of Louis XVIII, by a lady'', (1829) came into my hands in a German translation. In the first volume, the author speaks of the life of the French King in exile (prior to acceding to the throne in 1814, the Bourbon King Louis XVIII was in exile at Hartwell House, Buckinghamshire, England, following the first French Revolution and during the First French Empire under Napoleon – France had around three more monarchs following Napoleon's fall from power in 1815, until the institution was abolished for good with the 1848 revolution -ed.).
''He showed me in his small library, (French poet) M. Baour-Lormian's Omasis, side by side with a translation by Delille, saying that ''you can't translate a non-translatable poet in a cheerful and tasteful way,'' the lady writes.
(Mr Priimägi then outlines the relationship between various French writers, translators and other literary figures of the time in drawing the conclusion that Louis XVIII was an avid reader of mostly mediocre works).
Contrasting classic literature with the mediocre, was of interest to Sigmund Freud in some of his research. In a 1907 lecture, ''The Writer and Fantasy'', Freud stated that the most spectacular writers were not those most high critical acclaim, but rather the pretentious ones, who enjoy the most numerous and eager readers from both genders.
This, in its simplicity, is thus a useful tool for analysing the human soul, as against high literature, which is too complex.
In our own time, the very popular "End of History" by Fukuyama (1992) turned out to be a diversion (since Putin confounded Fukuyama), but it nonetheless conveys the notion that the history of literary classics is over.
Literature published today is very mediocre and lacks even the positive features of fiction. In today's literary landscape, there are only lean cows walking ─ and these are not the seven as in Pharaoh's dream (as related to Joseph in the Book of Genesis -ed.), but the herd seems to stretch endlessly to the horizon.
However, please take today's decision makers in literary prizes seriously. Literary awards will always be given out and someone gets considered worthy of them. And today's literary scholars will make a rich and thorough analysis of all this mediocre material. Reading reviews in (cultural periodicals) Sirp and Müürileht can be pretty painful.
Maybe it's just me who is used to asking this question, but would what is on the newsstands today still be read 300 years from now? Tammsaare and Luts are still read. But will the Estonian nation still even exist by then at all?
Editor: Andrew Whyte