segunda-feira, 28 de novembro de 2011

Estonia and Portugal: what brings our countries together and apart

By João Lopes Marques (Eesti keeles)

When Urmas Vaino asked me, more than a year ago in ETV, what were the main differences and similarities between Estonia and Portugal I froze...

Without acknowleding it, he had just made the most difficult question of my life. We were live in Terevisioon and I was just able to scatter something like “It’s... it´s... Huh, it´s as if we belonged to two different continents...”

Sometimes it seems to me that Portugal and Estonia are more than two countries in Europe’s far edges: a strange magnet brings us together; a ruthless determinism separates us.

Otherwise, it wouldn’t have taken me so long time to identify them...

1. Kaamos & saudade

Similarities first. Not many countries in the world have a specific word for a even more concrete kind of sadness. It’s quite surprising for me that youngest Estonians tend to overlook such an endemic concept.

In fact, I’ve been asking it and just people over 35, or even older, have the ability to define it. “Kaamos? It’s more like a mental stage... It’s between Autumn and Winter, it’s about darkness, Summer is over and Christmas madness (or joy) hasn’t started yet.

Some enjoy it, others just feel sad and lonely”, explained me my friend Rauni. “For me it’s more like nostalgic time when I just want to read and be alone...”

Well, this is the most similar explanation to Portuguese saudade I’ve heard. Yet make no mistake: the concept is still rather different from saudade, although to sense a sharp consciousness of a peculiar sadness is rare.

Most European nations I know opt for straight words like “nostalgy”, “melancholy” or “depression”. Or simply “sadness”. Like the Portuguese, it seems to me Estonians have the power to enjoy this temporary darkness of the soul, the moment a negative euphoria takes us over with our rational consent.

It’s the lovely power to pushing something heavy into the most poetic zone of the spirit.

I guess this is why Estonians understand so well our most important poet, Fernando Pessoa. Morevoer, I believe it’s not a coincidence kaamus is ethymologicaly so close to kaemus, “to think about world and yourself in it”, as Kairi put it.

And what’s exactly Portuguese saudade? A state of mind that makes us grieve the absence of somebody or something. A concrete person, our distant home, a time that has already past. A palliative remembering technique against deep spiritual pain.

The hope that counters fado, more than our national song, a heavy karma Portuguese love to self-inflict in themselves: fado is a synonym of fate...

2. Adeus vs. nägemist

Yes, at the very same time there is an tension between us. Invisible. It is much less obvious than the dichotomy to-kiss-or-not-to-kiss. In fact, the difference between an Estonian nägemist and a Portuguese adeus beats the 4,000 kilometers that separate us.

It’s nothing minor: a farewell phrase, whatever it can be, is one of the most important in every culture. Unlike the Portuguese, Estonian people can show an unbearable sharp goodbye. Words are irrelevant here: nägemist, head aega, tšau... Locals pronounce it in a dry and pragmatic way, with plenty of conviction.

They seldom feel the need to repeat it while looking back. Or coming back. Or hugging three times while saying “Hey, we really have to keep in touch!” before they are convinced it´s a normal goodbye.

Another one, as usual.

An Estonian nägemist is rather different. It hints that to see that person again is everything but essential. That's understated if you meet, you meet. If you don´t, you don't. Life. From my experience, homesickness is also possible in an Estonian mind — but far from being a daily tragedy. 

Honestly, I don´t remember hearing the word “hüvasti”. Or “Jumalaga”. For some reaons, both are a very rare event. And that´s exactly what “adeus” means: “God be with you!” Yet what could be an extraordinary gap is nothing but another Estonian singularity. Even English “Goodbye!” means it.

Yes, Atheists don´t think too much about The Creator. Him, Himself. Of course, we can always pretend the Venice dialect import ciao — “tšau” in Estonia, “tchau” in Portugal — can solve most situations.

Paradoxically, it unites us since the 1980´s or so. The phonetics is nice and it´s like shaking hands halfway. “A contemporary colloquial farewell is polylinguistic”, assured me Mihkel: “Okey, ciao, paka ja nägemist..." It´s pretty cool, although it sounds slightly artificial to me. Too modern, maybe.

Deep in our souls we keep our own traditional way to say goodbye. Identity. A neutral and God-free nägemist will hardly have any relation to a painful Christian-rooted adeus.

The ultimate consequence?

We go opposite directions: Estonians prefer silent emotions and hide; we tend to play a small theatre. Perhaps due to our poetic introspection styles — kaamos or saudade, kaemos or fado — we both think a lot about those farewell moments that...

That...

Oops, turn out to be radically different. Never mind, it could be much worse: hopefully, we are not that antagonic. On contrary: I still believe a metaphysical force connects these two distant edges of Europe.

Lucky us.

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