Just like it was taken for granted that houses could be abandoned and slowly decay, so it was taken for granted that people died in prisons, and that it was possible that no one would really ever know the cause of death. This is the nature of totalitarianism.
In 1993-94 Sigrid Rausing completed her anthropological fieldwork on the peninsula of Noarootsi, a former Soviet border protection zone in Estonia. Abandoned watchtowers dotted the coastline, and the huge fields of the Lenin collective farm were lying fallow, waiting for claims from former owners, fleeing war and Soviet and Nazi occupation. Rausing’s conversations with the local people touched on many subjects: the economic privations of post-Soviet existence, the bewildering influx of western products, and the Swedish background of many of them. In Everything Is Wonderful Rausing reflects on history, political repression, and the story of the minority Swedes in the area. She lived and worked amongst the villagers, witnessing their transition from repression to freedom, and from Soviet neglect to post-Soviet austerity.
©2013 Sigrid Rausing; “If I Wanted to Go Back” by Jaan Kaplinski, translated from Estonian by Jaan Kaplinski and Sam Hamill. (P)2014 Audible Inc.
The Swedish author lived a year in Estonia to study transition to independence after collapse of USSR back in 1993. It was part of her work towards an advanced degree in social anthropology and she lived among towns people whose collective farm had closed. She was about 31 years old.
This seems a sentimental trip down a very distant memory lane. I found it long and morose but I suspect it is not primarily intended for me but is the authors own historical marker. In that capacity it does well. However, to this listener there was way to much Deep Thinking going on. For instance during her stay in Estonia she decided to use the same poor quality washing soap as the locals she studies. That's easy. But not so fast! She chose to use it "for my own complicated existential reasons." This sort of thing takes some getting used to. I never did get used to it.
The author recounts a restaurant meal where the waitress seems to deliberately bring the wrong food. Three times! She recounts this episode with a detached sense of disinterested fatalism and without any thought or much comment except it was inconvenient to her and her friend. Simply one more feather in the personal gloom tote bag. But how on earth could this bizarre and counter productive behaviour happen given the economic circumstances? Speaking of complicated existential considerations to think about this one takes the cake!
Complimentary title "The Almost Nearly Perfect People Scandinavian Utopia" Michael Booth. Read that first.
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