Ahasuerus’s testimony. A  literary pilgrimage as a moral obligation in the novel Ahasveeruse uni (“The Sleep of Ahasuerus”) by Ene Mihkelson Cover Image

Ahasveeruse tunnistus. Kirjanduslik palverännak kui eetiline kohustus Ene Mihkelsoni "Ahasveeruse unes"
Ahasuerus’s testimony. A literary pilgrimage as a moral obligation in the novel Ahasveeruse uni (“The Sleep of Ahasuerus”) by Ene Mihkelson

Author(s): Aija Sakova
Subject(s): Estonian Literature
Published by: SA Kultuurileht
Keywords: moral witnessing; Ahasuerus; testimony; Ene Mihkelson; “The Sleep of Ahasuerus”; pilgrimage;

Summary/Abstract: Ene Mihkelson (1944–2017), one of the most philosophical authors in modern Estonian literature, has chosen the title of her novel Ahasveeruse uni (“The Sleep of Ahasuerus”) (2001) associating it with a figure from a medieval legend. The same figure occurs in the title of the story Ahasverus död (“The Death of Ahasuerus”), 1960, Estonian translation published in 1971) by Swedish Nobelist Pär Lagerkvist (1891–1974) . While Mihkelson’s Ahasuerus sleeps or dreams (the Estonian word uni can mean either state of mind), Lagerkvist’s Ahasuerus is either dying or dead. Both titles are very intriguing as both word pairs are oxymoronic. According to a legend, Ahasuerus was a former shoemaker who came to be called Wandering Jew since he was deprived of the right to have a rest, let alone sleep or dream. Neither was he entitled to find peace in death as his task was to keep wandering around the world, telling people about the passion of the Christ right until His Second Coming, thus bringing Christianity nearer to infidels.The aim of the article is to analyse what kind of a testifier Ahasuerus is according to Ene Mihkelson’s novel and what his witness is about. The study sheds light on different aspects of the Ahasuerus legend as well as on some books dealing with the subject and bearing the name of Tallinn as their fictitious place of publication in the early 17th century, which is also mentioned in the novel. A comparative analysis of “The Sleep of Ahasuerus” by Ene Mihkelson and “The Death of Ahasuerus” by Pär Lagerkvist is focused on whether the existentialist memorial wanderings of the first-person narrators of the two books are absolutely necessary, and if so, then whether those wanderings are dominated by the retributive element, or rather by the feeling of being the chosen one.

  • Issue Year: LXI/2018
  • Issue No: 04
  • Page Range: 285-296
  • Page Count: 12
  • Language: Estonian