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Mudlum (Made Luiga)

 (EE) Mudlum (c) Madli Lippur

Mudlum (Made Luiga), born on 31 July 1966, is an Estonian prose writer and a literary reviewer. She studied philosophy at the Estonian Humanitarian Institute (Eesti Humanitaarinstituut) and graduated from the Estonian Academy of Arts (Eesti Kunstiakadeemia), which provides higher education in art, design, architecture, media, art history and conservation/restoration. In addition to Polish Boys, she has written two collections of short stories and a novel: Tõsine inimene (A Serious Person, ZA/UM, Tallinn, 2014); Ilus Elviira: burleskne jutustus (Beautiful Elviira: A Burlesque Story, Eesti Keele Sihtasutus, Tallinn, 2015); and Linnu silmad (Bird Eyes, Eesti Keele Sihtasutus, Tallinn, 2016). The Estonian Head Read Literary Festival says of Mudlum: ‘Her first short stories published in the media took no time to attract attention; her debut, the collection of stories Tõsine inimene … was nominated for the prose award of the Estonian Cultural Endowment. Mudlum has said that instead of seeing the world as a story, she considers it a journey. This is the peculiarity of her work, her focus on past, almost dream-like musings where mundane moods and details stand out, as well as her preference for states of mind over plotlines. This is how a unique world is created, described by Ilona Martson as a “chaos with a clear composition”’. Mudlum is a well-known literary critic; her reviews and essays have been anthologised as Ümberjutustaja (The Narrator, Elusamus, 2017). She has also contributed to the increasing popularity of Estonian short stories, being one of the four editors of the collection Eesti novell 2018 (Estonian Short Stories). In 2017, she won the leading award for Estonian short stories, the Friedebert Tuglas Award, for her short story Ilma alguse, ilma lõputa (Without a Beginning, Without an End), which was first published in her third book Linnu silmad. In 2020, Polish Boys won Mudlum the annual award of the Estonian Cultural Endowment.

 

  • EUPL Year: 
    2020
  • EUPL Country: 

Winning Book

Poola poisid

Polish Boys is a story of young bohemian intellectuals who have settled in old dilapidated buildings and who follow their ideals. The novel is set in socialist Poland, but space and time are irrelevant and can be seen as an allegory. Polish Boys is about the confidence of youth and about aspirations for beauty and truth, how high expectations meet reality, how some people bend and deviate and some don’t. Adam, Sulisław, Teofilis and Jerzy grow up together and become influential figures in Warsaw’s art and literary circles. They set up the radical cultural newspaper Płaszcze and try to transform the society surrounding them. Their radicalism is challenged and not least by the convenient choices offered by the establishment. The same choices are present in their private lives: the unpredictability of free love or the security of a family. Polish Boys is a bildungsroman for the whole generation inspired by the cultural group ZA/UM in Estonia. The author, who was a member of the group, writes from her personal experience with warmth and compassion, which makes the novel’s tone both universal and human.

(EE) Poola poisid

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Translation Deals

  • Bulgaria: Colibri
  • Macedonia: Bata press
  • Serbia: Treći Trg

Excerpt

Poola poisid - Mudlum - Language: Estonian

Tulevastele sündmustele annavad tõuke mingid asjad, mis juhtuvad nüüd või on ehk juba äragi juhtunud. Varajasel kevadkuul saabus Adami perre teade, et üks Mackiewiczite ulatusliku suguvõsa puruvana liige on otsad andnud. Inimelu kustumine on küll kurb, kuid reeglina ei avalda see elavatele suuremat mõju. Sugulasest jäi järele majaront, mida keegi ei tahtnud, sest see oli nii kaugel linna servas, nii halvas korras, õieti täitsa kõdu, täis hiigelsuuri ämblikke ja hallitust; onnis polnud ei moodsa aja vältimatut mugavust, elektrit, ega ka kraanivett, sest viimased eluaastad oli vanake virelenud mööda haiglaid ja keegi ei olnud märganud maksta makse, nõnda olid kõik mugavused vaikselt välja lülitatud, ja kui lõpuks taibati, et kuskil seisab tühi hurtsik, siis pidid pärijad ukse maha murdma: pilt, mis neile avanes, ei olnud meeliülendav. Raske öelda, millisele vääritule kontingendile see majake kunagi oli ehitatud, võib-olla raudteetöölistele, igatahes ei olnud ehitis suurem kui teise mehe kuur, ja kindlasti oli ta halvemini kokku klopsitud. Ainus materjal, mida töömeestel püstitamise ajal laialt käes paistis olevat, olid uksed, sest toasuurusesse elamisse oli tekitatud kõige hämmastavamat sorti pime esik, kust läks suisa kuus ust teistesse ruumidesse, mis olid pisikesed nagu tikukarp. Maja paraadnast sai astuda nii ahtasse eeskotta, et laiemate õlgadega mees võis sinna kinni jääda, mingi nipiga oli välisesikusse topitud ka pööningutrepp. Kui olid eeskoja ukse selja taga kinni löönud, seisidki pilkases pimeduses. Käsikaudu kobades selgus, et paremale viis kaks ust, üks neist niinimetatud suurde tuppa, kus asus pöörane tervet seina kattev peegelustega riidekapp ja vastasseinas pehkinud saepuruplaadist looka vajunud platedega raamaturiiul, täis kopitanud ja krussi tõmbunud köiteid, teine aga kohta, mida võiks tinglikult nimetada kabinetiks, too oli samuti maast laeni raamatuid täis, isegi toa keskel oli riiul nagu raamatukogus, kõigi nende virnade vahele oli litsutud kööbakas kirjutuslaud, selle kõmmeldunud sahtlid ei liikunud ja uksed olid kiivas hingedel ripakil. Ka laua taga olev tool lonkas kõiki jalgu, teda oli isegi tohterdatud põikpulkade ümber mässitud riideribadega, et tapid veel kuidagimoodi koos püsiksid. Toa ainus aken oli tillukeste ruutudega, räämas, suunaga põhja, maja ümber kasvasid suured puud. Kokkuvõttes oli see pool majast pime nagu koobas. Koridori otsauks viis nurga peale väikesesse tuppa, kus oli pireke valgem, paari naelaga oli akna ette löödud kardinakalts, mis oli kunagi kollane olnud, nüüd pleekinud liivaväljade kahkjat tooni. Akna all nurgas kössitas rõske voodi ja selle kõrval korratu kuhi ikka neidsamu niiskusest rikutud raamatuid, virna otsas seisis tass, millest keegi oli kunagi joonud, sees kivistunud suhkrumuistis. Vasemale viis pimedast soolikast koridorist samuti kaks ust – üks pesuruumi, kus elasid kakandid ja hiigelämblikud, suured nagu rusikas, mustad ja karvased, jalad nii jämedad kui ankruköis. Vetsu loputuskasti paak oli katki. Viimane ruum ühendas endas köögi ja katlamaja, sisaldades imelikku plekist pliiti ja ühte kummutit, mille peal seisis laiskliisu, kummuti sahtlites olid pruukimata nõud, kõik kenasti hiiresitaga koos. Nurgas seisis ainuke ajastutruu ese – külmkapp, kohe külmkapi kõrval oli pehkinud keldriluuk, kui seda rõngast sikutasid, siis jäid ka mõned lauad pihku. Ei taha teadagi, mis seal keldris oli.

Sugulased vangutasid päid, panid uksele uue luku ette, võtmed jagati laiali ja maja unustati. Ühel malbel sügispäeval, kui Sulisław järjekordselt mingist veidrast elupaigast välja nügiti ja ta täiesti nõutult Varssavi uulitsal seisis, teadmata, mida järgmiseks ette võtta, meenus sõber Adamile järsku maja. Lõppude lõpuks on majal siiski katus ja seinad, kuigi seal mitte midagi muud ei ole, taeva kingitusena oli majaga koos säilinud pisike varu puid, ümberkaudu majades oli puuriitu nagu muda, vaikselt saab mõne halu ikka ära nahistada, küte pole küsimus. Teine lugu oli see, et isegi Adam ei oleks kuigi meelsasti tahtnud elada nii totaalselt väljaspool ühiskonda ja selle traditsioonilisi mugavusnorme, ehtsas tiisikusekoldes, kuigi elu Lilita juures hakkas juba hapuks minema. Sellises õrnas eas mehed, aga ka palju vanemad, täiesti kogenud mehekolakad kasutavad sel puhul üht väga viletsat taktikat. Et neil ei ole julgust suhteid lõpetada inimese moodi, rääkides või läbi rääkides või lihtsalt jeebet tõmmates, hakkavad nad otsima kaudseid mooduseid, kuidas oma teinepool niimoodi välja vihastada, et too ise taipaks asjade lõplikku lörriminekut. Sellised mehed hakkavad jooma ja laaberdama, käituvad nagu kaabakad, või mis käituvad, nad ongi kaabakad, krantsid, närukaelad, nende teod on koledad ja andestamatud, neil lasub selline süü, mida ei lunasta ükski märtrisurm. Nad ei aimagi, et on naisi, keda lihtsalt ei õnnestu maha raputada kasvõi kakskümmend aastat järjest juues.

Igatahes lonkis Adam peale Sulisławiga kohtumist vanematekoju ja tuhlas seal läbi kõik sahtlid, kergitas riiulitel asuvaid nipsasju, avas ning sulges kappide uksi nii metoodilise aeglusega, et ema Ewal katkes kannatus.

„Mida imet sa õieti otsid?“ küsis ta nagu alati. Pani oli kandnud köögilauale suure hunniku toitu ja ootas pikisilmi, et end harva näole andev poeg kõhu korralikult täis sööks. Toitmisinstinkt ei olnud temas vaibunud, iga kord kui võsuke kodu väisas, tühjendas ta oma kapid tangainetest ja lihakraamist, pakkides pojale kaasa korraliku kompsu nassvärki. „Nälga ei pea küll keegi nägema,“ ütles ta ikka, ja „süüa ei keela me kellelegi“, või „tule söö nüüd kõht korralikult täis“, nõndaviisi tundus talle, et miski ei saa liiga valesti olla.

„Maja võtit otsin,“ vastas Adam, legendaarne asjadeotsija. Ta otsis alati midagi, kas mõnda oma sokki, püksirihma, mõnda raamatut, oma võtmeid, oma mütsi, oma ükskõik mida ja sageli ta ei otsinudki midagi. „Ma ainult vaatan, mis siin on,“ ütles ta siis. Niisiis ei imestanud pani Mackiewicz hetkekski otsitava objekti üle, ega hakanud pärima, miks Adamil võtit vaja läheb, vaid vastas automaatselt:

„Esikus peeglikapi peal on see puujuurikast tops, vaata sinna põhja.“ Tema oli jälle tuntud selle poolest, et teadis alati täpselt, kus mingi, ükskõik kui imelik või harva kasutatav asi on. Ja kui tema ei teadnud, kus asi on, siis võis selle asja kadunuks lugeda.

Võti näpus, läks Adam kööki sööma ja sõi tõepoolest korralikult kõhu täis. Tal oligi natuke näljas peetud hurdakoera nägu peas.

Oktoobrikuu esimesel päeval kolis Sulisław Zawisza ihuüksinda hüljatud majja. Vett tõi ta pangega naabrite juurest ja püüdis siis kangelaslikult üdini rõsket, vammi ja lagu täis maja üles kütta. Ehitise pentsik küttesüsteem oli vist kunagi eesrindlik olnud, peaaegu nagu keskküte, pliiti küttes soojenes veevärk, kuumenenud vett oleks radikates pidanud ringi ajama mingi elektriga käivituv pump. Et aga elektrit ei olnud, siis võis peale tundidepikkust kütmist täheldada, kuidas radiaatori üks nurk kergelt leigeks muutub, nii teise-kolmanda ribini, siis aga soojus taandus ja Zawisza näole ilmus kurblik ilme. Ta kükitas pliidisuu ees ja luges kuni valguse kadumiseni kopitanud raamatuid. Voodi oli nagu soo, kui palju ta ka ei katsunud tekke ja patju üles soojendada, neid tihedalt vastu pliidikülgi toppides ja igapidi keerates, ikka oli tunne, nagu oleks end mässinud surilinadesse, kõigel püsis märja, klimpunud mulla lõhn.

Kuid huvitaval kombel tõi maja endaga kaasa ka täiesti positiivseid muudatusi Sulisławi seltskondlikus elus. Kui enne oli tüdrukutega kehvasti, siis nüüd selgus, et tüdrukud tahavad vägagi külla tulla, ja just sellised halvad, halbade kavatsustega tüdrukud, nad tahtsid tema juures viina juua, istuda küünlavalgel kesk apokalüpsist, tunda, kui elus, kui muretud, kui hoolimatud on nad keset seda vana kola, mis oli ju kokkuvõttes ikkagi romantiline, istuda turritavate vedrudega roosipuust diivanil, no võib-olla mitte just roosipuust, aga igal juhul roose kuhjaga täis nikerdatud; kõikjale oli asetatud raskeid pronksist küünlajalgu, märg ja külm tõmbusid koomale noorte soojade kehade ja igale poole valguva küünlavaha eest. Mõnus oli ette kujutada, et neid koletislikke raamatulasusid valvab mõni Goethe vaim ja vaatab vesise suuga noori näitsikuid, silmad punnis peas.

Lõplikult sättis Sulisław ennast sisse nukapealsesse kollase kardinakaltsuga tuppa. Seal oli ka kollakas tapeet ja aknast viiliti sisse paistev madal sügispäike muutis armetu toa õndsaks kuldseks nurgakeseks. Tüdrukud oli sinna ukse peale kirjutanud sildi „Külm ja kole tuba, keegi ei taha olla“, aga just selle külma ja koleda, pliidist kõige kaugemal asuva ruumi asustas Sulisław iseendaga. Sest kõik teised toad olid veel rohkem perse keeratud, siin oli vähem asju, vähem hallitanud köiteid, ja need, mis olid, ladus ta ilusasti sirgetesse ridadesse väikesele improviseeritud riiulile, loopis ülejäänud kola toast välja ja jättis sinna miinimumi – ühe klapplaua, kõige vähem logiseva tooli, voodi ja oligi kogu lugu.

Translated Excerpt

Polish Boys - Mudlum - Translation by Adam Cullen

Certain later events evolve from developments which are currently underway or have perhaps already occurred. In early spring, Ad-am’s family received word that an ancient member of the extensive Mackiewicz bloodline had given up the ghost. The expiring of a hu-man life is indeed unfortunate, but generally has no greater impact on the living. This relative left behind a ramshackle cottage which no one wanted because it was so far on the fringes of the city and in such poor condition — rotting to the very foundations, in fact, and stocked with dry rot and giant spiders. The hovel lacked the most essential modern-day convenience, electricity, as well as running water, because the old man’s final ailing years were spent bounc-ing from hospital to hospital and no one had ever thought to pay the bills, resulting in the utilities being shut off one after another. When someone did finally realize there was a dilapidated cottage standing vacant somewhere, the heirs had to break down the door to gain access — what they found was not uplifting. It was hard to say for what rude contingent the dwelling had once been construct-ed, perhaps railway workers, but some men certainly owned larger sheds hammered together more competently than it. Doors were apparently the only material the builders had had in abundance: the space, large enough for a single room, had been given a most as-tonishing lightless vestibule from which an inexplicable six doors opened into rooms as miniature as matchboxes. The front door opened into an entryway so cramped that a broad-shouldered man could get wedged tight, and yet a staircase leading up to the loft had also been crammed into it by some miracle. Once the front door was shut, you found yourself in total darkness. Groping around blindly helped to determine that two doors led to the right. One opened into a “living room” furnished with a puzzling cupboard with mirrored doors which covered the entire wall, across from which was a sag-ging plywood bookshelf groaning under the weight of musty vol-umes with crimped pages. The second door opened into what could conditionally be called a study and was likewise piled with books from floor to ceiling; there was even a bookshelf standing in the center of the room like in a library. A decrepit desk was jammed between the heaps, its warped drawers stuck fast and its cabinet doors hanging askew from their hinges. Even the desk chair wob-bled on each leg; strips of fabric were wound around the stretch-ers in an attempt to hold the tenons in place somehow. The single grimy window was divided into tiny grilled panes and faced north, though mighty trees hemming in the house obscured the view an-yway. In short, that face of the building was as dark as a cave. The door at the end of the corridor opened into a compact corner room which was a smidgen lighter. A tattered curtain, once yellow but now sun-bleached to the chalky tone of dunes, hung before the win-dow on two nails. Crouching in the feeble light that filtered through the glass was a bed paired with another disorderly stack of books ruined by the dank air. An unwashed mug balanced on the top-most volume, fossilized sugar encrusted at its base. Two doors also opened from the left of the inky intestinal corridor — on into a lav-atory occupied by pill-bugs and gigantic spiders which were black and hairy, as big as one’s fist, with legs as thick as anchor cables. The toilet tank was cracked. Consolidated behind the final door was the kitchen and boiler room, which also contained an unusual tin stove and a dish-drying rack set upon a chest of drawers. The draw-ers were packed with unused bowls, plates, and saucers, all nicely peppered with mice scat. Standing in one corner was the only item true to the times in that cottage: a refrigerator. Next to the appliance was a worn cellar trapdoor, though tugging at its rusted ring only left you holding a few rotting floorboards. No one wanted to know what was inside. 

The relatives all shook their heads, changed the lock, handed out the spare keys, and forgot about the cottage.

One mild autumn day, after Sulisław had been expelled from his latest unorthodox accommodation and stood on a Warsaw street corner at a total loss for what to do next, his friend Adam suddenly remembered: the cottage. All else aside, the cottage did have walls and a roof, no matter that that was all it had. And as an additional heavenly blessing, the cottage had retained a mod-est stack of firewood. The neighboring houses all had generous supplies as well — one could always filch a log or two from here or there, so heating wasn’t an issue. Not even Adam would have been willing to relocate so totally outside of society and its tradi-tional standards of convenience to live in that genuine hotbed of tuberculosis, even though life with Lilita had already begun to go sour. Males at that delicate age, not to mention much older, burly, seasoned men, commonly employ a vile tactic in such a situation. Lacking the courage to end the relationship like civilized human beings by discussing or negotiating or simply fucking off, they pursue circuitous ways to infuriate their partner to such a degree that she herself ultimately realizes their romance is utterly kaput. Men like that start to drink and brawl, behaving like hooligans. Or what behavior is it, really — they are hooligans, scoundrels, bastards. Their actions are terrible and unforgivable; they bring upon themselves a guilt no martyr’s death could redeem. They ha-ven’t the slightest clue that there exist women who simply cannot be shaken off by even twenty years of constant boozing. 

 Anyhow, after meeting with Sulisław, Adam shuffled off to his parents’ apartment, where he rummaged through all the drawers, peeked under knickknacks on the shelves, and opened and closed cupboard doors with such methodical sluggishness that his moth-er Ewa finally lost her nerve.

“What wonder are you looking for now?” she asked as she al-ways did. Pani Mackiewicz had served a feast on the kitchen table and was impatiently waiting for her son, who made very infrequent appearances, to tuck into a proper meal. Her motherly instincts had not faded and every time their boy paid a visit, she emptied their cupboards of meat and grains to pack him a sizeable care package. She’d say, “Nobody needs to go hungry,” and, “We’re not going to stop you from eating,” or “Sit right down and have a proper meal.” In this way, she believed that nothing could ever be too amiss.

“I’m looking for the cottage key,” the legendary looker-for-things replied. Adam was always ferreting around for something, be it a sock, a belt, a book, his keys, his hat, or his whatever-else, and oftentimes he wasn’t really looking for anything. “I’m just see-ing what’s here,” he’d say. Consequently, Pani Mackiewicz was in no way nonplussed by the sought-after object, and neither did she inquire of the purpose for Adam needing it. Instead, she automat-ically answered: “There’s a wooden bowl on top of the entryway closet. Check around the bottom.” She, in turn, was famous for al-ways knowing exactly where things were, no matter how strange or little used they were. If she didn’t know where something was, then it was as good as lost. 

Key in hand, Adam entered the kitchen to eat, and did polish off a proper meal. He bore a striking resemblance to a starved greyhound.

Sulisław Zawisza moved into the abandoned cottage alone on the first of October. He fetched a pail of water from the neighbors and doughtily set about heating the dank space teeming with rot and must. The peculiar heating system had probably been state-of-the-art at one time and was almost like central heating. A fire in the stove heated the plumbing system and hot water should have circulated through the radiators with the help of an electric pump. Yet since there was no electricity, Zawisza could feel one corner of a radiator turn lukewarm after hours of stoking the flames, perhaps even extending to a second or a third rib, before the warmth dwindled and a dour expression washed over his face. He would crouch before the mouth of the stove and read musty books until the light faded. The bed was like a mire — no matter how much he tried to warm the pillows and blankets by pressing them against the sides of the stove and rotating them every which way, he still felt as if he was wrapping himself in burial sheets as he lay down to sleep. Per-vading every inch of the space was the smell of damp clotted soil.

Interestingly, however, the cottage still ushered in entirely positive changes in Sulisław’s social life. Whereas his situation with girls had been spotty before at best, it now turned out that girls were very much willing to come visit, and specifically the bad girls with bad intentions. They wanted to sip vodka, to lounge in an apocalypse by candlelight, to feel how alive, how carefree, how careless they were among the heaps of old junk, which tak-en as a whole was romantic nevertheless; to recline upon a rose-wood sofa with the springs poking through —nwell, maybe not rosewood exactly, but embellished with rose carvings in any case. Heavy bronze candlesticks were scattered everywhere; the cold and damp withdrew from the young, warm bodies and the wax spilling in every direction. It was amusing to imagine that those monstrous heaps of books were guarded by a Goethean spirit, gaz-ing upon the young sprites with bulging eyes and salivating lips. 

Ultimately, Sulisław settled into the yellowish-curtained cor-ner room. The wallpaper was also yellow and the autumn sunlight which filtered through the window at a low angle turned the dingy room into a golden nook. A girl had scrawled “cold and nasty room, no place to be” on the door, but it was precisely that cold and nas-ty space farthest from the stove where Sulisław made himself the most comfortable. For while all the other rooms were lost causes to an even greater extent, there were fewer objects in this one, fewer musty volumes, and the ones that Sulisław found he stacked into neat, even rows on a small improvised shelf, tossing the rest of the junk out the door and leaving only the bare minimum: a collapsible table, the least-rickety chair, the bed, and nothing more. 

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