Aeg maastikus. Ristikivi metafüüsiline kronotoop / Time in the landscape. Ristikivi’s metaphysical chronotope


  • Õnne Kepp Under and Tuglas Literature Centre of the Estonian Academy of Sciences



Karl Ristikivi, poetics, metaphors, time and space, metaphysics, landscapes, chronotope


The article examines two novels published during the early years of Karl Ristikivi’s exile, All That Ever Was (1946) and Nothing Happened (1947), and his poetry from 1950s. The main aim is to explain the poetic and semantic mechanism that transformed Ristikivi’s realism of the 1930s into a metaphysical outlook in the 1940s and 1950s. The Estonian landscape has long been a significant source of inspiration for Estonian poetry (and, frequently, prose) for the expression of an individual’s spatio-temporal relations. For Ristikivi, landscape plays an essential role in the conception of his literary chronotope. To gain a deeper understanding of the emergence of Ristikivi’s metaphysical chronotope in these two novels one must search for corresponding time and space imagery. Natural elements manifest the spatio-temporal relations that find expression in time-containing landscapes. Often the cyclical landscape reflects a character’s life, although the narrator’s perspective is always from the present to the past. In Ristikivi’s works, the present lacks a sense of place – a permanent relationship with a physical place. Regarding the time aspect, one could however refer to the so-called biographical inversion, biographical reversals, retreating to a long-gone golden era, where space too had different qualities. The spatio-temporal universality of nature imagery is vividly expressed in Ristikivi’s poetry. Metaphysical space is portrayed using concrete metaphors (sea, island, shore), but time-specific independent imagery is missing – time is portrayed as an organic part of landscape and of space as a whole. Here, what is important is not the realistic passage of time and its peripherally associated phenomena, but the experience of an earthly journey, the so-called destined time. The atmosphere is one of metaphysical flight from life, unreal landscapes in a bizarre world and a temporal vacuum. In the lyrics, Risikivi’s metaphysical chronotope is concentrated into a compact poetic whole. Ristikivi locates time in the landscape, thus creating a chronotope that develops a new and meaningful metaphysical unity. However, a temporal invariance endures, i.e., in the hierarchy of time, the past predominates, which recall and preserves the geneological, historical or societal-social subtext. While Estonian poetry is characterized by yearning for the past, thus implying a spatio-temporal infinity, this major Estonian artist names the infinite wandering as „a human journey”. 


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