Synopses & Reviews
This "documentary novel," the latest of Estonian author Mati Unt's deadpan and playful works to be translated into English, is about a little-known period in the life of the great Bertolt Brecht, when the writer — having fled Nazi Germany — became stuck in Finland awaiting the visa that would allow him to leave Europe for the United States.
As BB, the avowed communist, continues enjoying the bourgeois pleasures of pre-war life with his wife and tubercular mistress, the Soviet Union is not-so-quietly annexing Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia; and the gulf between Brecht's preferred lifestyle and his inflammatory polemics grows larger and larger.
Both affectionate and irreverent, this portrait of one of the twentieth century's great authors mixes together a variety of comic styles, excerpts from contemporaneous documents, and Unt's trademark digressions, producing a kind of historical novel as interested in interrogating the past as simply recreating it.
"Mati Unt was one of Estonia's most influential writers...[He] had a splendid detachment and a rampant imagination." Kate Saunders, The Times
"One of the most influential modernist, and latterly postmodernist, authors in Estonia." Context
If you leave out enough, then that one word, for instance night in the phrase when night falls, will begin to reverberate. It will correspond exactly to what the reader is imagining, become its equivalent. Because inflation is the death of every economy. Words can drop their retinue and meet one another with the greatest dignity imaginable. And it is quite wrong to think that classics in this instance have forgotten about the reader, quite the opposite -- they respect the reader.
— from Brecht at Night
Every once in a while you stumble upon text within a novel that utterly describes the experience you've had while reading that novel. Such is the case with this quote from Mati Unt's recently translated novel Brecht at Night. Karen Vanuska, The Quarterly Conversation (read the entire )
About the Author
Mati Unt's novels The Debt
, On the Existence of Life in Outer Space
, The Autumn Ball
, Things in the Night
, and Diary of a Blood Donor
, among others, established him as one of the most prolific and well-regarded novelists in Estonia. He was also instrumental in bringing avant-garde theater to post-Soviet Union Estonia and was well known as a director.
Eric Dickens is a translator and reviewer of Estonian and Finnish-Swedish literature. He is currently translating work by the novelists Toomas Vint and Hannele Mikaela Taivassalo.