A. H. Tammsaare’s Epic Musicality


  • Arne Merilai University of Tartu




A. H. Tammsaare, musicality, poetic function, prose poetics, prose rhythm, repetition, polysyndeton, coordinating conjunction, parataxis, linguo-stylistics, word statistics, dialectic method


A. H. Tammsaare was drawn to the musical tonality of prose. Importantly though, he did not wholeheartedly embrace sound patterning as a mode of writing. Rather, he preferred a semantic widening of ordinary language within a comprehensively holistic “spherical music”. In his novels, we can detect a deliberate use of rhythmic motion in sentences. This is evident primarily in the wealth of lexical and syntactic repetitions resulting in a parallelism of patterns. An obvious, although discreet, rhythmic design emerges in the thesisantithesis- synthesis parataxis the core words of which are the adversative and coordinating conjunctions aga (‘but’), and integrative ometi (‘yet’, ‘indeed’). The frequency with which these bound conjunctions occur in Tammsaare’s work surpasses that of ordinary speech by about four times, and it is twice as high as the statistical mean for literary texts. One might call this expressive of an epic but-mantra, a prose-poetic but-meter, or a narrative polysyndeton, and, from a philosophical point of view, a but-dialectic. Whenever a reader fails to appreciate Tammsaare’s underlying tone and does not discern the emotional flow of longing scepticism that issues from his dyadic-triadic chains, this pervasive, yet inconspicuously arguing, textual mode may seem unduly pretentious. Indeed, there is nothing to prevent a prose text from featuring a poetic style that is rooted in a poetry-like, paradigmatic parallelism as the poetic principle of formal and semantic equivalence.


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