Back to top

Sly Ain and the Old Heathen: Literary marginalia in the Noorus magazine of the 1960s, Part I

The article discusses the inspiring literary commentary published by mentor Ain Kaalep alias O. Muusapoeg ‘lit. O. Son of the Muses’ in the 1960s editions of the magazine Noorus („Youth”), which was officially addressed to the Communist youth of the Estonian SSR. It highlights the rhetoric of irony cleverly hidden between the lines, which could be regarded as critical counterpropaganda. On the one hand, the writings carried an important mission of educating the rising generation in classic literature, Estonian as well as world and from the Antique to the exuberant current literature, trying to fulfil the deficiency in aesthetic knowledge afflicting post-war Estonia. On the other hand, using hints like in the classic Aesop’s language the author addressed the informed readers with messages close to their hearts, such as prohibited or nearly banned literature, or the censored historical and cultural memory of Estonia, while vulgar speculations on fine arts and life were ridiculed as manifest ignorance. The author has termed his pragmatic tactics as „showing the [red] colour”, which means that using Soviet phrases and motifs as Trojan horses he often managed to send opposite signals, thus reversing echoed praise to sarcastic censure. Such hidden or half-revealed contraband served not Soviet interests but those of cultural resistance. Kaalep’s subtle counter-demagogy stimulated the Estonian spirit, although those scratching the mere surface may of course have been misled. The cessation of the series in 1970 coincides with the end of the political thaw.