SOMETIME IN THE WINTER (or was it spring?) I was approached by two Americans from the Pacific Northwest who had holed up in Tallinn’s Old Town for weeks, trying to put together the second issue of a new literary magazine they had christened Calliope.
In one of those fortuitous events, one of the editors had encountered one of my books, read it cover to cover, and decided to contact me, not only for a submission, but for the contacts of other writers in Estonia who might be on the look out for new opportunities. Some of the names I provided made it into the Tallinn issue of Calliope, I’m happy to say.
In writing my own piece, ‘All Those Restless Souls’, I thought of the magazine’s readers, many of whom might be in the Pacific Northwest, and a recent visit from an old friend to Tallinn came to mind. The story began to write itself:
This is Adam Fish’s new life. He wakes up at the Hotel Europa with the wind howling something ferocious against the glass, and a moist streaky vision of Tallinn Harbor visible through the gray sliver of light that separates two carpetty-looking burgundy hotel curtains. Through it, one can see the rows of discount liquor stores, and beyond that, the great jutting jaw-like shape of the bow of one the white ships that goes to Helsinki, as if poised to swallow the whole scene up.
Originally titled, ‘This is Adam Fish’s New Life,’ ‘All Those Restless Souls’ tries to draw out some of the paradoxes in the expatriate dream of leaving it all behind. “I’m already so bored with it,” Adam opines in the story. “Just sitting there, sitting there. Drinking wine. Eating cheese. Sitting there. Drinking wine. Eating cheese. Sitting there. Drinking …”
We’re in class talking about our bright futures. It’s 1988. Czechoslovakia still exists. Estonia is a republic of that massive red country that eats up most the map. “I will become a Slovak salesman,” says Adam proudly. “And I will become an Estonian writer,” says I.
There is so much more to it, isn’t there? If you want to read this piece and others, including haunting work by Eia Uus and Adam Cullen, be sure to invest in a copy of Calliope. And many thanks to Lauren Schwab and Matthew Conyers — our editors, curators and publishers — for this opportunity to be read in a wonderful new context.