New Sincerity Versus Postmodernist Scepticism; Traces of Hipsterdom in Contemporary Estonian Literature


Priit Kruus (Tallinn University)

Hipsters are urbanised youth living in a contemporary consumer society seeking authenticity in defiance of mass communication and mass marketing. Hipsterdom emerged from the youth movements in the 1940s and 1950s and is characterised by youngsters’ sincere and unconditional protest against societal control mechanisms and institutional canons.

Nowadays, hipsterdom is somewhat ambiguous since there are no clear borderlines between mainstream and underground cultural movements. The rebellious characteristics of youth subcultures have become a brand.  In the light of these paradoxes, I will focus on two young authors in contemporary Estonian literature.

Barthol lo Mejor’s novel Popdada 2007-2008 was published in 2008 and it describes the subcultural movement popdada, which can be regarded as a lifestyle or a complex of aesthetic beliefs. Barthol lo Mejor (Pärtel Vissak) himself has explained that popdada is an advancing phenomenon, a counterweight to the power of the pop industry.

Siim Nurklik published his book Kas ma olen nüüd elus (Am I alive now) in 2010, and it was also staged as a play the same year. Whereas lo Mejor seems to be sincerely following the spirit of modernist avant-garde, Nurklik is clearly a postmodernist sceptic. In his book, he derides the mainstream youth controlled by market trends, but he is also very cynical about those who attempt to break free from them.

By comparing these two authors, I will outline the following movements in contemporary Estonian youth culture: (new) sincerity and postmodernist skepticism. And by identifying the mutual textual tools in Popdada  and Kas ma olen nüüd elus, these movements can actually be combined under the same poetic umbrella.

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