Rein Raud

The Death of the Perfect Sentence

Shortlisted for the Cultural Endowment Annual Award for Literature (Best Book of Fiction)
Longlisted for the International Dublin Literary Award

"It takes a brave and experienced writer to trust his own skills and test those of his reader as much as Raud does in this sneaky genius of a novel" - The Riveter

"The Death of the Perfect Sentence can be seen as a spy novel mixed with memories, in which young resistance fighters endeavour to out-smart the KGB. Yet, it is also a story about bungled opportunities, the destruction of love, and the death of trust… Raud’s stylistic mastery has been highlighted before, but he re-confirms in his newest work the fact that he is unsurpassed in the short-novel genre." - Estonian Literary Magazine

"I found The Death of the Perfect Sentence thought-provoking, relevant and chilling and it will linger with me for a long time to come." - Melissa C.Beck, book reviewer, Numéro Cinq

"Rein Raud is already known for having written a number of highly varied and multi-layered novels, and his latest work is no exception. It is above all a first-rate work of fiction, but it also provides a view into Estonia’s recent history which is witty and thought-provoking, leaving the reader not knowing whether to laugh or cry." - Estonian Literature Centre

Estonian edition published by Mustvalge in 2015, English translation by Matthew Hyde published in 2017 by Vagabond Voices. Also available in Russian, Finnish, Latvian and Dutch.

Things weren’t exactly how the authorities thought they were back then: that a multitude of isolated, downtrodden people were embracing a vision of happiness and a histori- cal mission which required them to speak a foreign language and to celebrate a foreigner’s victories – a vision which promised to unite them, to restore them, to make them greater. Neither were things as some people like to remem- ber them today: cinders glowing valiantly in every hearth, ready to blaze up into a tall, proud ame as soon as the rst bugle call was heard. There was a quiet war being waged for sure, but it was so quiet that even the sharpest ears might not pick up the rumble of its cannons, and the clever chaps abroad had concluded that peoples’ backs were so bowed that they would never stand upright again. That is until the newspapers told them quite how wrong they had been, leaving them unable to explain exactly what had happened. There was a quiet war being fought, but without a frontline moving backwards and forwards on demarcated territory. In the place of trenches there was something more like the circulation of blood, or mushroom spores: thousands, hundreds of thousands of little frontlines, passing through meeting rooms, wedding parties, family photographs, through individual people, who could be upstanding Soviet functionaries from nine to ve and then turn into fervent idealists watching Finnish television in the evenings. But there is no point in asking if things could have been oth- erwise, only why those people’s descendants are the same to this day, even if they have changed their colours. The printed money wasn’t worth much back then, even if there were plenty of sweaty-palmed people with no scruples about handling it. There was however another important currency in circulation – trust. Some may use simpler terms such as acquaintances, contacts, but nothing would have counted without trust. Because in the end it was impos- sible to trust anyone if you hadn’t gone to school together, shared the same sauna, gone scrumping with them, studied together, worked in the same of ce, done military service together, stolen something, eaten and drunk with them, slept with them. If you trusted someone, you could share your books, your telephone numbers, your smoked sausage, your summer house, anything you had, even trust itself – names, places, times. You didn’t use a dentist whom you didn’t trust, you didn’t ask someone to pass a letter to your Swedish relatives if you didn’t trust them. If you could help it you had nothing to do with people you did not trust – they might very well be working for the other side.
Trust was the only valid currency.
It was just so exhausting.
And so we used that trust to pay for our freedom, and we’re still collecting the change to this day.