“People are ready to spill blood for geographic maps, because to them blood is the final seal guaranteeing that everything is not just an illusion.”

Tõnu Õnnepalu (1962) deservedly holds the title of one of the most esteemed and significant contemporary Estonian authors. His novel-like debut work Border Territory (Piiririik) was published in 1993 under pseudonym Emil Tode, causing a literary sensation in the small Baltic country. It was eventually translated into 15 foreign languages and remained the most translated book of Estonian literature following its independence.

Written as a series of letters for a person named Angelo, this novel brings a shocking confession of a young man who left his homeland, a country in Eastern Europe where “poor and dark Countries helplessly mourn their own unfulfilled Histories,” to find happiness in “the West,” specifically in Paris. But his illusions are soon petered, because “all countries became ghostly deserts of ruins where nomadic herds wander from one center of interest to another,” and the intimate confession of disappointment gradually becomes a story of search for one’s own identity, but also a confession of a committed crime. The plot of this multilayered, masterfully written novel, with poetic and atmospheric highlights, enters the hardly tangible “border territory” of reality and illusion, thus lifting the meaning of this term above its initial semantic frame of a geopolitical category.


Author: Tõnu Õnnepalu

Translator: Ivana Šojat

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