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On the poetics of transgressive literature (II)

Case study: Kaur Kender’s „Untitled 12”

Keywords: transgressive literature, scandal, lawsuit, contemporary Estonian literature, pornography, parody, grotesque, horror vacui


In his short story „Untitled 12”, ambivalent Estonian author and journalist Kaur Kender describes sex addiction in a middle-aged man, which supported by the need for control leads to a growing succession of acts of violence, torture and murder. Kender has received a criminal charge for his detailed and violent descriptions of sexual intercourse between the man and children. From the literary point of view, Kender uses the language of pornography in its whole richness, yet not with an aim of stimulating the sexual instinct, but rather to criticise the power relations ruling in an over-sexualised society. Kender’s metaphor of such a society is, indeed, violent sex subordination and the attitude of control and objectisation characteristic of the pornographic discourse. However, towards the end of the story the exaggerated graphic detail attains such intensity that the boundaries of realistic representation start cracking and we find ourselves amidst a black parody of pornography. In the end this disgusting „unrealistic world” becomes too much for one’s imaginative powers, forcing the reader out of that world.Another element used by Kender to alienate pornographic writing consists of several series of mythological and religious images (pray, offering, seed, spirit, lamb, Maria, serpent, Enkidu etc), which associate his text with the classical discourse of transgressive literature, especially with Marquis de Sade, but also with  The Story of the Eye by Georges Bataille. On the narrative plane, the story is based on the mechanism of routine repetitions deriving from the theme of addiction, but at the same time obsessive-compulsive addiction becomes a metaphor applying to contemporary Western culture as a whole. More specifically, the social critical allegory of the story addresses the East-European capitalist reality, where  normality and law are struggling on the surface of the depths of animal instincts, the law of the strongest, and criminal behaviour.



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