The Beauty of History

Overview

1968. Riga. News of the Prague Spring washes across Europe, causing ripples on either side of the Iron Curtain. A young Estonian woman has agreed to pose as a model for a famous, sculptor, who is trying to evade military service and escape to the West. Although the model has only a vague awareness of politics - her interest in life is primarily poetic - the consequences of the politics of both past and present repeatedly make themselves felt. Chance remarks overheard prompt memories of people and places, language...
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Overview

1968. Riga. News of the Prague Spring washes across Europe, causing ripples on either side of the Iron Curtain. A young Estonian woman has agreed to pose as a model for a famous, sculptor, who is trying to evade military service and escape to the West. Although the model has only a vague awareness of politics - her interest in life is primarily poetic - the consequences of the politics of both past and present repeatedly make themselves felt. Chance remarks overheard prompt memories of people and places, language itself becomes fluid, by turns deceptive and reassuring.

The Beauty of History is a novel of poetic intensity, of fleeting moods and captured moments. It is powerfully evocative of life within the Baltic States during the Soviet occupation, and of the challenge to artists to express their individuality whilst maintaining at least an outward show of loyalty to the dominant ideology. Written on the cusp of independence, as Estonia and Latvia sought to regain their sovereignty in 1991, this is a novel that can be seen as an historic document - wistful, unsettling, and beautiful....

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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
Originally published in Estonian in 1991, this novel follows rather surrealistically the effect of the invasion of Prague in the spring of 1968 on an unnamed woman. While politics gives rise to what thin plot exists here, the novel is far more lyrical than political. It opens with the depiction of the sky, likened to a vault, arcing over a large geographical area, from Tallinn to Riga, from the Karelian isthmus to "Dracula's castle and Ceausescu's kingdom," a region in which "the black beech-trunks on the mountainsides weave great clouds of fog . . . " This tenebrous beginning sets the tone for much of the rest of the narrative. Characters slip in and out of the murkiness, time itself becomes mutable and elusive, nothing ever becomes quite clear. It appears that the woman is supposed to pose for Lion, a well-known sculptor who wants to escape to the west but who eventually ends up in Moscow. The woman takes a train ride from Riga to Tallinn, and with each passing mile the atmosphere grows more Kafkaesque. The journey becomes emblematic of Luik's novelistic technique: "[I]t is already very difficult, if not impossible, to be certain whether . . . this train journey [has] been, for her, merely a semi-conscious illusion or whether it is, after all, a question of events that really took place and of people she saw with her own eyes." As with all surrealistic narratives, at some level it becomes impossible to determine what is happening in reminiscence and what in objective reality. Language itself becomes unreliable and treacherous as it slips in and out of description and observation, memory and longing. In the final sentence the narrative circles back on itself, for Luik returns to the sky,which now encompasses "the future, and its terrifying beauty."Powerful lyricism but enigmatic storytelling.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781870041737
  • Publisher: Norvik Press
  • Publication date: 1/14/2008
  • Edition description: Translatio
  • Pages: 151
  • Product dimensions: 5.76 (w) x 7.81 (h) x 0.31 (d)

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