To be honest with you, this post was firstly forgotten (my brain was in overload!), then deleted by WP twice. This is why I chose to schedule it on a Sunday to make sure I would be here and have time to fix things if technology failed me again!
But today is the day, and I am very happy to present you a Q&A with Mihkel Mutt, who is the Estonian Author of the Day at the London Book Fair Market Focus!
I was lucky to assist to bits of the seminars about the Baltic Countries between two errands and work! It was awesome to see so many people showing up and being enthusiastic about the authors and their work!
Now, the interview!
How would you describe your style of writing?
Ironic, satirical, and intellectual. I write about what I know from first hand, what is around me, and what I have experienced personally. In my latest novel, I have documented the arrival of the free market economy and open society in Estonia, as well as the respective post-soviet hangover.
How would you describe Baltic literature to someone from the UK? What kinds of genres and topics should people expect?
Realism used to be the predominant style in Estonian literature, often with a touch of irony and scepticism. In very general terms Estonian literature is akin to Scandinavian (Finnish, Swedish, Norwegian) and German literature; but all is changing rapidly, global literature with all its vices andvirtues is on the march.
Which Baltic and/or Estonian books (in translation in the UK) would you recommend to someone from the UK who has never read any Baltic literature?
Any historical novel by our ‘canonical trio’ Anton Hansen Tammsaare, Karl Ristikivi and Jaan Kross. From contemporary authors Mati Unt, Mehis Heinsaar, Andrus Kivirähk and Andrei Ivanov.
What are your memories of Estonia under Soviet control? How did this period of Estonia history influence you as a writer?
The influence is enormous, as I was a fully grown adult as I am now; however, my memories are ambivalent and contradictory, which is why I dedicated my longest novel Cavemen’s Chronicles to make sense of it. My inevitable conclusion is that living under occupation and mild totalitarianism sharpens people’s perception to spiritual matters. Writers and artists were always something more than just manufacturers of artefacts – they were spiritual leaders and – if I may say so – the second-best freedom fighters after a handful of “official” dissidents.
Where were you during the independence of 1991? How did this influence you as a writer?
I was working as the Head of the Information Department in the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and was considering becoming a fulltime diplomat. I soon realised that I wasn’t cut out for the job and that I should continue writing instead. Even so, I became more and more socially responsible, moving towards larger concerns. I started a career as a columnist on social problems and world politics, produced essays, and became an editor. During the Soviet times, art and literature were a form of escapism for many, but I cannot say this of myself – writing is the role that I would have always done.
Have you had any strange or unusual jobs? How did this influence you as a writer?
I began my career as a theatre critic, going onto work as a literary adviser in the Estonian Youth Theatre. Theatre is also the setting of my breakthrough novel Mice in the Wind (1981).
The Baltic countries – Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania – were be the Market Focus for the London BookFair 2018 (10th – 12th April). Mihkel Mutt was be the Estonian ‘Author of the Day’. The Inner Immigrant is published Dalkey Archive Press and translated by Adam Cullen