Armin Kõomägi. Minu erootika saladus. (The Secret of My Eroticism)
Sebastian Loeb, 2017. 238 pp

Kõomägi has commented that the most intriguing aspect of his newest work is probably the title, which includes three words that reference a certain intimacy. Still, the book of sixteen short stories has no piece that shares the same name.

And yet, The Secret of My Eroticism isn’t merely a play on words or something meant to trick the reader: it does pertain to the selection of topics pervading these collected works. Firstly, the stories are personal. Kõomägi has included the background story or drive for penning each piece, binding the diverse potpourri into a single bouquet. Secondly, the stories do often deal with sex and eroticism, which run through the work like a thin red line. Thirdly, the secret. Ever since Kõomägi won the 2006 Tuglas Short Story Award with his somewhat absurd “Logisticians Anonymous” (which is no metaphor!), he has particularly loved describing what is personal, not great social phenomena. He enjoys understanding a specific person together with the individual’s quiddities, oddities, development, as well as all the reasons that ultimately make someone who he is in the eyes of himself and others.

Yes, the character may be a wacko, such as John in Kõomägi’s short story “John’s Day”, in which the narrator speaks about a man who hasn’t been blessed by much in life, aside from his ability to churn out kids. Leaving a teacher’s funeral, John swipes a bottle of liqueur from the table and cheats at a game of chess with the narrator. Regardless, he doesn’t leave the impression of being a swindler, but rather a man on his way towards happiness. And in the end, he’ll arrive. Probably. In any case, each story ends on a humorous up note. Everyone merely tries to be on their way towards happiness.

The very next story in the collection, “Perfection”, is also truly grotesque. It tells of a young politician who, late at night, goes home to his mother after a tiring work day. The mother starts reviewing possible female companions for her son online. They pick apart photos together, the mother’s expert gaze seizing upon every existing or ominous physical flaw and hints of possible breast implants: she doesn’t miss a thing! The story ends with a predictable incest scene without actually turning into pornography, because that doesn’t interest Kõomägi. Rather, he aims to critique Estonian politics through a fun-house mirror, while stylistically focusing on the personal surface and not rushing to make dubious generalizations.

The Secret of My Eroticism is a diverse collection, overall. Kõomägi demonstrates his good sense of literary form and precisely what we knew about him before: the author feels most at home in the short story genre, and he feels especially comfortable in the humorous and slightly grotesque, where he is fantastically adept at provoking art while remaining gentlemanly. For, as we all know, everything ultimately unfolds in the reader’s own mind.

Peeter Helme (1978) is an Estonian writer and journalist, and anchors Estonian Public Broadcasting’s literary radio programs. Helme has published five novels. The latest, Deep in the West (Sügaval läänes, 2015), is a drama set in the industrial Ruhr Valley.