The patron of the festival 2021 Øyvind Rangøy

Photo: Inga Mölder

‘No man is an island,’ says John Donne. I’m still learning about men, but I know something about islands. The world of my childhood is about 500 meters in length, two hundred meters in width and surrounded by ocean waters of various depths. There are seven houses on that island, all its inhabitants belong to the same /big family, except the people from the neighbour’s house whose family name which came from the neighbouring village was forgiven. The points of the compass were different from the rest of the world: ‘ North ’meant East and ‘South’ was West – for life was set according to the shipping lanes.

I never thought it all to be something exceptional or strange. Instead, I thought of how strange it would be to live in a town where you would have to lock your door. It was even impossible to lock our door because the key had gotten lost long ago – and somebody was always home anyway. My uncle Klaus did lock his door when leaving his house. But he left the key in the lock outside. Locking the door simply meant that he wasn’t home, there was no sense in knocking. ‘But why do you leave the key in the lock?’ I once asked. ‘ Because there might be someone wanting to go in,’ my uncle answered.

Was that a small world? There was a cove between the island and the neighbouring cape where there was practically no water during low tide. Then there were heaps of seaweed in the cove, a few crabs moving about on it, but that low water world seemed small indeed. And then, with a daily faithfulness, the water started rising. When you put on your diving mask during high tide, you could discover a wonderful world. Those forlorn seaweed heaps became big trees now, it was a fairy tale forest in the greenish-blue water when the sun was shining. It was not a small world any more.

TV sets were of wood in those days and there were no remote controls in the world of my childhood. I knew numbers and asked my mother why the TV set had buttons marked with numbers from one to eight, what were they used for. ‘These are for the channels,’ mother said. ‘When abroad, you can in some places choose what you watch.’ And I was surprised.

Thirty years ago the first private channel reached thousands of homes and commercial ads with it! At first we were waiting for it. ‘Look, an ad!’ I might shout – and my brothers and sisters would come running. I especially remember one series of ads. These demonstrated the exotic culinary of different cultures. Then a bag of cereals for a stew was shown to which ended with a suggestion: ‘ The world is wide. Try it!’

But the Earth is but a tiny pinhead in the cosmos that is said to be so very big that nobody is able to comprehend it. Now, thirty years later, I have tasted a small part of the world. It has widened at least by Estonia where I have my own small worlds in Tartu, Tallinn, and Põltsamaa – but I communicate with people all over the world and when some interesting connections occur within that communication, people say, with a significant mien, using their mother tongue: ‘It is a small world.’

Has the world become bigger or smaller? Is it exactly the size of man? And bigger only as much as islands are islands and – men are men?

Translation: Kersti Unt