The brother by Rein Raud

The Brother by Rein Raud

Estonian fiction

Original title – Vend

Translator – Adam Cullen

Source – personal copy

Well, I’m on book review 999 on the blog and I have decided on a novella from the Baltic states an area I haven’t covered enough I feel so my second read from Estonia is from the well known Estonian scholar Rein Raud. He had a philosophical show on the tv there for a number of years From a talented family his brother is a musician his parents were both writers. He has written several novels in which a number has been translated into English. This was his first to be translated into English. It is also another from Open letter book the US publisher of books in translation.

“I would have expected anything” Brother said while unlacing his knee-high boots; the brother, of whichshe hadn’t the slightest clue just a  moment earlier, but whom – she now knew- se had awaited for so long.

“I would have expected anything, but not that,” said Brother. “When I arrived at the villa’s front door was locked and no one came to open it when I rang the doorbell. I went around back to te garden to see if you were walking the paths or sititing in the gazebo, but my heart was already punding with fear od finding,perhaps that the windows facing the yard had been boarded up  and not aa single soul occupied the house anymore, because i had come too late.

Her brither appears out of the blue.

In his afterword, he tips his hat to both Clint Eastwood and Alessandro Baricco’s works. This is a spaghetti western plot in a way or a classic revenge thriller in a way as it has the character of the stranger at its heart a man just known throughout the story as the Brother. The stranger heer is the half  Brother that Laila doesn’t know she had when he appears at her door in his hat and knee-high boots making him stand out. This happens after she has been cheated out of her inheritance a villa by the men of this town that is run by the males. Laila had taken this loss but the brother has come to take on these powerful men they have powerful jobs within the town A banker, a lawyer, and notary (I felt this was a nod to the western as Notaries are often mentioned in Westerns). As he starts to ruffle the feathers in the town the locals try to find out more about this new challenge to them and find out about Laila half brother what is his story? a rat-faced assistant of the lawyer starts digging into the past. The brother also has a fling whilst in the town.

 The notary’s secretary accidentally knocked over an inkwell, which spilled accross ten or so signed contracts awaiting archiving, and the lawyers wife was complaining of chronic headaches every evening. The banker was still in a bind with his branch office: customers were closing their accounts there en masse, and in order to resolve the temporary liquidty problem, he had been stable for a long peroid of time; shares, whichlaunched into an unexpected rise two days laters. However, all these kinds of things shouldn’t have lasted for very much longer.

The pressure the brother brings starts to show on the main chanracters lives.

I mean the obvious example of the main character in this book is the character played by Clint Eastwood in the classic western High Plains drifter as a stranger enters a town to sort something out another film I remembered was the Bruce Willis film Last man standing where he goes to get revenge on a corrupt town.  Even The equalizer  I remember those lines in the advert Got a problem? Odds against you? Call the Equalizer and the brother is like that Laila has been beaten down this is a book that draws the line that this is males inflicting the loss on a female character. The brother is her savior as she had lost hope and excepted the status quo. The novel has a great atmosphere the chapters are short almost like short scenes in a fast-moving western as the action moves from here to there as the brother starts to ruffle the feathers and they find out how Laila was conned out of her inheritance by deceit and trickery. A great little gem as with the Peirene books this is easily read in an evening.

Brecht at night by Mati Unt


This Book is part of dalkey archives Baltic literature series .the book is set in the early 1940’s and follows a journey the German playwriter Bertolt Brecht took in 1940 fleeing germany en route to the U.S.A he had to stop in finland for a while whilst awaiting visa clearance to travel to U.S.A .the book unfolds like a docu drama with two main  strands Brecht’s journey and time in Finland and also a history of Finland and Unt’s own Estonia during the war years .We find that Brecht a socialist ,is what maybe termed nowadays a champagne socialist ,that when even fleeing his own country on the run so to speak still really wants the creature comforts ,as well as a mistress a fling with an older women a well-known Finnish playwriter  .In the other strand of this novel we discover the soviets land grab during the second world war grepping Finland ,with a short and bloody warwith Finland that the soviets wrongly considered a soft target, and the Baltic states including Estonia .what happens once this has taken places the book banning by russians and new rules ,a new governor for Estonia named M.Unt no relative to the writer Unt points out ,we also get little glimpse of what happens in germany the oddness of the german leaders and what lead to Brecht leaving his homeland .This book is a wealth of info and pin points a small event i n a great writers life ,it isn’t the easiest book to read but is rewarding in the end .It brings to a wider audience Unt’s undoubted talent and unique style of writing ,and the translation is wonderful by Eric Dickens .

 Brecht decides :I’m taciturn by nature . i won’t reveal anything about myself or my plans.he remembers that Ibsen came from somewhere up here ,and said ………yes,what was it he said ? something about silence, and something about being on your own -you where stronger alone – and silent .If Ibsen did say something like that,he refuted it later on .

Brecht just about to arrive in Finland .

March 2023


%d bloggers like this: