- Gabriela Liivamägi
Rein Raud, born in 1961, has written eight novels in addition to several collections of short stories, poetry, and numerous essays. He has won many awards and has been compared to Umberto Eco, as he combines prolific literary activities with a successful academic career as a cultural theorist and philosopher. Three of his novels have been translated into English, and his works have been published in seven other languages.
In his books, Raud traditionally combines a tense atmosphere with sudden plot twists and precise stylistic consciousness. Critics have remarked that he never returns to the same theme twice, even though recent historical events play a prominent part in several of his novels, including The Reconstruction (2012; 2017 in English) and The Death of the Perfect Sentence (2015; 2017 in English). The former describes the events leading up to a collective religious suicide committed by a group of young people, while the latter is a love/spy story that takes place during the final months of Soviet occupation in Estonia. Raud’s most recent book Bell and Hammer, his longest work to date, takes place in a remote manor on the Estonian coast. The book contains several different story-lines, each told in its own voice and style. One of these is dedicated to the travels of a Baltic German aristocrat in the first half of the 19th century; another to the search for an orphaned child who vanishes without a trace in 1950; and two separate story-lines observe a collection of disturbing events in 2016, when the same manor opens as a museum. Little by little, we learn how the human fates entangled in this location throughout different points in history are mysteriously tied to a game using cards and dice that has been played in the manor house for centuries.