“The Saviour of Lasnamäe” by Mari Saat

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August is Women in Translation Month, so a book originally written in Estonian by a woman writer fits right in.

For me this book was a fast easy read, but I felt a bit squeamish about the way the heroine has made to earn her living for time.

I worry that the point the random reader takes out of the book will be the hardening of their prejudices about Eastern European women.

May-be I am unfair, yet what the writer made Natalya to do makes me uneasy.

I like Sofia, but I also wonder is she an hopeful ideal rather than any true Russian teenager?

What I really would like would be to get the opinion of Russians living in Estonia – how this story makes them feel.

I would recommend this book for foreigners, yet for myself I found it thought provoking, a reason to question my own beliefs, attitudes and actions.

Tere! Hello!

ImageLet me start this blog with a long quote from “The Lives She Left Behind” by James Long.

 

“Engine noise and a voice , shouting, woke them in the morning. They unzipped the flap. A tractor was parked just inside the field and a young man was standing outside the tent shouting, ‘Out, out! You must get out!’

Lucy crawled out and stood upright, facing him. She was wearing a long T-shirt and not much else and he seemed disconcerted. ‘Go,’ he said, ‘Now. I must pray.’

‘What do you mean?’

‘I must pray. Here.’ He was pale-skinned, pale haired, thin.

‘You’re not making sense,’ she said. ‘We’re not doing any harm. Go and pray somewhere else. We’re going to pack up in a minute.’

He held out his wrist to her, tapping his watch. ‘Must pray. Right now. You. Go away.’

‘You’re very rude,’ said Lucy. Ali  and Jo were out of the tent, collapsing it and packing away the parts in their backpacks.

He held up his hands as if in invocation and said something incomprehensible.

‘You’re not from this country, are you?’ asked Lucy.

‘Estonia.’ he said.

‘I don’t know where that is, but we don’t pray in our fields. We grow things in them and, if we want to, we sleep in them, so go and boil your head.’

‘Come on,’ said Ali. ‘ Leave it, Lucy. Give us  a hand.’

‘I don’t see why I should leave it. He’s got a nerve, talking to us like that.’

The young man had retreated to his tractor and was fiddling around with the equipment mounted on the back. He pulled down two long arms which stuck out at the side and climbed up to check the contents of the plastic tank mounted behind.

They walked out of the field, Lucy looking pointedly in the other direction while Ali and Jo waved apologies at the man, who gave them an uncertain smile and waved back.

‘Halfwit,’ said Lucy. ‘He should go back to Esty … wherever it was and do his parying.’

‘You saw that thing on his tractor?’Ali asked.

‘Yes.’

‘I think that was a sprayer.’

‘So?’

‘He was saying “I must spray.” He did not want to spray us.-

There was a long silence after that.

‘Well, he should speak English better,’ said Lucy in the end.”

 

I find this a suitable quote to start with, as I AM an Estonian and I hope that my readers will not judge me too harshly, if at first it seems to them I am driving them away to pray on their fields (or in their language), as it is just that I am not a native English speaker (English is my third language) and all I am trying to do is to write in English about the books I am reading in English.

 

For illustration I have used an image of a postcard showing the outlines of Estonia on the map and details from work by Estonian artist Eduard Wiiralt titled “Absinthe Drinkers” and created in 1933.