TALLINN - Vello Vikerkaar is my favorite liar: beginning with his name. While Estonians are known for names bordering on absurd (Ulle Over the Highway, for example), I refuse to believe any mother would burden her child with the English-language alliterative equivalent of “Ricky Rainbow.” Would someone named Vello Vikerkaar not have had the crap beat out of him in school? Perhaps he did, and this is why he writes so well.
“Tantramees” (“The Tantric Man”) – take the title with a grain of salt – is Vikerkaar’s second book and cements his position in the wholesale trade in lies. While his first work, “Inherit the Family: Marrying into Eastern Europe,” dealt mainly with the 1990 follies of post-Soviet Estonia, “Tantramees” carries the reader to present day Estonia in all its colorful splendor.
Some expat authors may be accused of pandering to locals, but Vikerkaar is not among them. I would venture that for every three Vikerkaar fans, you may find one devout enemy, often a foreign Estonian who has somehow concluded that Vikerkaar claims to speak for him, or a humorless soul miffed that Vikerkaar would run an advertisement for his new book featuring ringing endorsements from Anton Tammsaare and Marie Under, Estonia’s greatest, yet long dead, literary heroes.
Just as one must doubt the veracity of what Vikerkaar writes, one must be suspect of what is written about him: He is Justin Petrone; he is Toomas Hendrik Ilves; he once killed a man. But all this, surely, is just the way Vikerkaar would have it.
“Inherit the Family” and “Tantramees” available from Slothrop’s English Books, Pikk Street 34 in Tallinn’s Old Town.