Tänapäev 2019, 64 pp.
ISBN 9789949856268

The outstanding Estonian animated film director Priit Pärn needs no long introduction. His films have been hits in several international festivals, and one can be so bold as to state that he is one of the most important contemporary animation authors of our day. Pärn is also a prolific caricaturist, graphic artist, and illustrator – last year, the American publisher Archipelago Books released Eno Raud’s book The Gothamites (translated by Adam Cullen), which features Pärn’s fantastic art.

The Gothamites Go Global doesn’t simply include Pärn’s illustrations, but is a new book authored by the artist as well. It was commissioned by the Spanish comics publisher Fulgencio Pimentel e Hijos, which intended to release his 1977 The Gothamites. As he started to redraw the book, Pärn soon realized it was transforming into an entirely new one. “There was no point in copying something I did a long time ago – the Gothamites started crawling into our modern day.”

Who are the Gothamites? They are, in fact, very universal characters – included in the folklore of many nations is a village populated by rather bizarre people. The Gothamites found their way into Estonia in 1857 when F. R. Kreutzwald – who also authored the Estonian epic Kalevipoeg – wrote a book in Estonian based on similar German stories. His The Gothamites doesn’t fall far from the epic in terms of its fame or various interpretations.

The problems Pärn’s universal Gothamites tackle in his new book are universal as well. At the center of the plot is the good old story of how the Gothamites build their council house, but he uses it to address many painful issues of our day: deforestation, climate change, the longing of small nations to be noticed, populism… Pärn has said that the title doesn’t mean stupidity is spreading around the world, but that a new stupidity is moving from our world to that of the Gothamites. 

The Gothamites Go Global is packed with layers of meaning, humor, and wordplay. Pärn is both sarcastic and heartfelt, which can be perceived in the illustrations themselves, the text bubbles, and the subtitles. His masterful and highly detailed artwork, done with the assistance of his wife Olga Pärn, is also deserving of praise.

Lastly, The Gothamites Go Global is itself, as a book, universal as well. Children and adults alike will find their “own” story within its pages. Those who are still too young to read or to catch the references to present-day problems will be fascinated by the illustrations while adults can enjoy the extremely dense work as a whole.

“On top of the fact that the Gothamites are not fools, they have one incredible quality. Could it perhaps be the ability to adapt? Or the skill to adjust? Basically, it’s one in the same,” Pärn has remarked. Absolutely! I’m convinced that we’ll hear of the tenacious Gothamites again and again. The whole world is filled with them.

Pille-Riin Larm is an Estonian literary critic and researcher. She has been on the editorial board of the Estonian cultural newspaper Sirp’s literature section since 2014.