Kärt Hellerma (b. 1956) is an Estonian writer whose debut book, Alchemy, appeared in 1997. She has since published in a variety of genres, including novels, poetry, and short stories. Her recently published book The Blue Mass presents both an English translation (by Adam Cullen) as well as a reprint of the Estonian version of Hellerma’s novella of the same name, which originally appeared in 2008.

The Blue Mass is dazzling, almost surreal, like the azure waters and blue skies that mark the parameters of longing that can never be reached. The narrator conceives herself as a creature of water and starlight, yet she very much exists in her human form; contemplating fleshly desires, the nature of love, and what it means to be a woman at a specific place and time. Her place is a tiny Swedish island and her time is our contemporary moment, where she muses about a friendship with a Catholic priest.

The Blue Mass, with its poetic yet critical prose, weaves together the abstract and the material, and by doing so echoes modernist writers, such as Virginia Woolf, and also much less known Olive Moore. Hellerma’s writing also brings to mind Hélène Cixous and other French feminists who were among the firsts to write about a woman’s body and its passions in a mythical context. There is also a parallel between Hellerma and Elena Ferrante, whose prose is violently honest. Although Hellerma is less fleshly and more poetic, her writing, which has been translated to Swedish, Finnish, Czech, and Russian, certainly looks at life through a woman’s, and feminist, gaze.

The Blue Mass, which originally appeared in Estonian as one of the four autofiction-style travel stories in a collection of the same name, is a beautiful, rich and timely addition to introduce Hellerma’s work to English-speaking readers.

Kärt Hellerma
Sinine Missa (The Blue Mass)
EKSA, 2022, 184 pp.
ISBN 9789916677223