Estonia: Paradise Without Palm Trees (Living in the Post-Soviet Euphoria: Understanding the Fears, Dreams and Manias of a Fascinating Small European Nation


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"The first time I met João was several years before this book was published – in a pub called Hell Hunt, a place that, as it happened later, became the second home of this nifty and talkative Southern European. I don’t know if he has followed the example of Hemingway or somebody else, but in any case, he likes to work not at home, but in an ambience laden with social voltage, joy and invisible threads of emotions. It happened to be a complete coincidence that one beautiful blond woman (without surprise) introduced me to him.

I was astounded by João’s storytelling and analytical abilities; the way he would speak about Estonia or any other country where he had lived in his short, but adventurous life – from quite a new angle that I hadn’t yet noticed. I was encapsulated by it inasmuch that I immediately hired him as an Eesti Ekspress web edition columnist. First on a temporary basis, then permanently. Many opinion authors, including other very upstanding ones, have been given space in Ekspress, but only a few of them have stayed so long: only a few have the drive to produce interesting texts week after week without writing themselves empty. In the case of João there is no reason to be surprised that during these years he has lived in Estonia, he has also written several novels, one of which is already available in the Estonian language.

In my opinion, João’s stories are necessary for us Estonians because they offer our small fishing pond a fresh view from that of a bystander.

His narratives are like a mirror where we can see ourselves and our actions – as we have never seen before. For that reason, these articles don’t expire but remain as a chronicle.

João’s stories are characterized by soft humour, his irony is not incursive – there is no venom or aggressiveness that one, unfortunately, finds so often nowadays. Be it an article where the influx of young Estonians to Australia is analyzed, or Estonians’ own misconceptions about foreigners, or a stream of consciousness about consequences in search of the meaning of life. In this book there is simply reading material which can be enjoyed with pleasure, lying on one’s back with feet against the wall."

Askur Alas, Eesti Ekspress journalist and editor
Table of Contents

1. The ultimate Estonian taboo: "Maarja is also leaving Estonia..."
2. “Darling, I still don’t know...”
3. "SS": the admirable way Estonians keep it short and simple
4. My Carmen Kass obsession
5. My post-Nikita syndrome
6. The three puzzling fractures of Estonia
7. Quiz: what's the most similar city to Tallinn?
8. From Borat to chiclets
9. Let the roosters play
10. My thousand days in the Eesti Vabariik
11. Klaus Mirsalis, the man who sent me to Tallinn
12. The Gentile’s glossary of Estonians
13. Kanal Seitse: restoring stolen memories
14. Tallinn, 2011’s feminine version
15. Estonia can't afford another lost generation
16. Estonian shopping centres, the new social solariums.
17. The good and bad forms of patriotism
18. Estonia, the ultimate "nailocracy"
19. Why does Jeremy Clarkson sell better than I do?
20. Estonian tipping etiquette
21. Tere-tere-tereeee: the art of greeting in Estonia
22. Learning how to be physically disabled in Tallinn
23. The sounds I can hear in Estonia
24. 13 small Estonian facts that make all the difference
25. One unexpected personal fetish called "Viljandi"
26. Medievalandia
27. The ultimate slogan for Estonia
28. Queuing with comrades
29. When Tallinn becomes too small for a big Estonian soul
30. Words don't come easy? But Estonia really needs them
31. Spontaneous Estonia: a freedom exercise
32. An Estonian (silent) civil war
33. The utter importance of a visible pair of eyebrows
34. What if there were a big mountain in Estonia?
35. Oops, we have to postpone having vineyards in Estonia
36. The man who puts Estonia on the map
37. Kalamaja, the perfect Estonian laboratory
38. The day Estonia met Africa
39. Am I a sex-terrorist?
40. Probably the best housewives in the world
41. “Vabandust, aga ma ei tea!”
42. A karmic birthplace called “Tallinn”
43. The unbearable lightness of an Estonian kiss
44. Ode to provincial girls
45. It’s time for Estonia to come out of the closet
46. Dimples of Venus, the most enigmatic part of a women’s body
47. Estonian dinners: how the food here flows in a different way
48. Finns and Estonians, two very different ways of wife-carrying
49. Be prepared: the next generation of mixed Estonians is coming!
50. Estonia ends de facto in Rakvere
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