cover painting and other artwork by Sarah Son-Theroux
Any journey with Alexander Theroux is an education. Possessed of a razor-sharp
and hyperliterate mind, he stands beside Thomas Pynchon as one of the sharpest
cultural commentators of our time. So when he decided to accompany his wife —
the artist Sarah Son-Theroux — on her Fulbright Scholarship to Estonia, it occasioned
this penetrating examination of a country that, for many, seems alien and
distanced from the modern world.
For Theroux, the country and its people become a puzzle. His fascination with
their language, manners, and legacy of occupation and subordination lead him to
a revelatory examination of Estonia’s peculiar place in European history. All the
while, his trademark acrobatic allusions, quotations, and digressions — which take
us from Hamlet through Jean Cocteau to Married… with Children — render his
travels as much internal and psychical as they are external and physical. Through
these obsessive references to Western culture, we come to appreciate how insular the country has become, yet also marvel
at its fierce individuality and preternatural beauty — such is the skill of Theroux’s gaze.
This travelogue of his nine months abroad also brims with anecdotes of Theroux’s encounters with Estonian people
and — in some of its most bitterly comedic episodes — his fellow Americans whom he at times feels more alienated from
than the frosty, humorless Europeans.
Estonia: A Ramble Through the Periphery is as biting and satirical as it is witty and urbane; as curious and lyrical as it
is brash and irreverent. It marks a new highlight in an already stellar career and a book that continues Fantagraphics’
exceptional line of prose works.
Download and read a 37-page PDF excerpt (176 KB) with the Table of Contents and first 6 chapters.