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The transmedial nature of cultural memory

The coast in the artistic texts inspired by the refugee boats trying to escape World War II



The article assumes that history is kept in cultural memory by reduplication into different languages or media. Each new duplicate version includes a variable part influenced by its author’s contemporary socio-cultural background as well as by the particular medium or language used. On the other hand, transmedia analysis enables to find the invariable core contained in all of the versions.

One of the repeatable wholes in Estonian cultural memory is made up of the artistic texts mediating the escapes over the sea in 1944. The article analyses fragments of three relevant works, namely, August Gailit’s novel Üle rahutu vee („Over troubled waters”, 1951), Sulev Keedus’s feature Somnambuul („Somnambulance”, 2003) and Eerik Haamer’s oil on canvas Perekond vees („The family in water”, 1941).

The focus of the comparison is the coast motif. This is, firstly, the space where the events are set and, secondly, a symbolic space with a strong poetic potential, which is perceptible even intuitively. The coast is a border zone between the own and strange, the past and the future; but it is also a memory site harbouring hope as well as despair, both for an individual and the whole nation. Thus, in all three works the motif can also be associated with a loss of personal and national identity, a theme varied by each author according to his own artistic means. Those variations underline the inevitable polyphony of recollection, which is the underlying mechanism of transmedial cultural memory.