The patron of the festival 2022 Urmas Vadi

Photo: Jaan Tootsen

We often search for explanations of life in situations where there is so much inexplicable, even unbelievable, around us! In such cases we tend to create metaphors:

So, a good acquaintance of mine feels that he has become a hindrance in his own life, with events heaping over his head, and that he is the last one to hear about things he should have known long ago! He becomes more and more grotesque, starts mixing up the hall and the bathroom doors at home, doesn’t know where he is coming from or going to and says at last: Life is theater!

Or let’s take a woman who goes swimming three times a week; once she comes out of the shower, jumps into the pool and then understands she has forgotten to put on her bathing suit. She dives and tries to stay as long and as deep under water as she can, having only one sentence throbbing through her bathing-cap, hair and skull: Life is a dream!

Half a century ago the father of a family I know went to queue up at a bookshop in the evening to be able to buy a comic book titled Donald Duck, Mickey Mouse and Others in the morning. The shop being open at last, there was some scuffle but the man was nobody’s fool, kept his place in the queue, maybe even was able to move forward a few places; the queue kept winding, lucky buyers left the shop with their books, others waited nervously wondering if there were enough copies. And then a group of military veterans appeared knowing nothing about Donald Duck or Mickey Mouse! Using their orders, they forced their way past everyone and bought the last book just under the nose of our poor man. He went home and had nothing else to say to his children than: Literature is a game!

It is in such situations where we cannot explain what befalls us, cannot define our own misery and foolishness, where even common sense won’t help (has it ever helped anyone?), when a hurried, desperate necessity arises to ask – is someone trying to tell us something with it? My argument is certainly blurry and obscure and what comes needn’t bring any clarity either for we are still far from clarity, but nevertheless it seems to me that it is with writing, writing ourselves through and through, or even at a moment when all hope is lost for anything, but the hand keeps scribbling, that you’ll manage, to you own surprise, to word something essential very precisely and you have a feeling that someone, maybe your inner self, has done it instead of you.

I have been playing tennis for the last ten years. I feared sports games when I was a child. Instead, I liked to eat fat and sweet things. I wasn’t fat but all my life I have had the feeling as if I walked with a thick quilt around my body. At school, going to the cloakroom reminded me of entering the underworld: nasty sweaty dampness and it was good if even a lonely bulb in the ceiling gave light. And in the gym the ladders, parallel bars and the nastiest gadget – the vaulting-horse – were waiting!

Tennis like literature offers life amplification and an alternative. At present our time is out of joint, you rack your brains and do what you can, but in the end you feel helpless and tired  and wish you were in some other world. Tennis like literature is of help at least for the moment you are on the court, run, chase the ball and hit, letting you forget.  At the best moments you have the same feeling of free movement as when writing. You feel as if you had entered some other space. Maybe game limit is moving within the lines of the tennis court, concentrated, present in the world, but at certain moments also somewhere else. 

Translation: Kersti Unt