Seesama romaan? Jaan Kaplinski „Seesama jõgi” teisel pool Läänemerd / The Same Novel? Jaan Kaplinski’s The Same River on the Other Shore of the Baltic Sea
Keywords:Jaan Kaplinski, reception, foreign reception, autobiographicality, Estonian literature in Swedish translation
This article focuses on the reception of Jaan Kaplinski’s The Same River (2007; in Swedish 2009) in Sweden and in Estonia. The author of the article compared reviews written about the novel in both countries, assuming that different knowledge about Kaplinski and Estonian culture would evoke a somewhat different reception.
Most of the Swedish articles were published in newspapers, which explains why they all were quite short and summary in nature. In Estonia, many longer analyses were published.
Although the novel was generally very well received in Estonia, it nevertheless produced polemical responses concerning the possible reading models to apply to it. Some of the Estonian reviewers paid too much attention to its autobiographical matter while others tried to read it as a “genuine” novel. The Swedish reception, on the contrary, received it in neither of these ways. The Same River was regarded as a Bildungsroman but the critics understood that the main character (and his environment) was very similar to the writer, which helped them to recognise the exceptional character of the young man. Although many Swedish critics also discovered the connection between the Teacher and Uku Masing, they did not fall into a discussion about the Kaplinski-Masing relationship. Yet half of the critics pointed out that the lectures of the Teacher became the longueurs of the novel, and some also thought that the character, despite its central role, was more like a shadow figure.
The Same River was as well received in Sweden as in Estonia but, compared to Kaplinski’s earlier prose works, the reviews in this case were more ambivalent. The expectations for the novel were higher and the joy in the novel’s debut did not always outweigh the criticism, as it mostly did for Estonians. This means that some slightly more negative headlines also appeared.
All in all, as previous knowledge of the reception of The Same River abroad was rather insufficient and even somewhat misleading, this article shows that the reception of Estonian literature abroad deserves more thorough research.