L’écrivain estonien Meelis Friedenthal (né en 1973) est l’auteur d’une thèse de doctorat à l’université de Tartu sur un traité philosophico-théologique du XIIIe siècle consacré à la vue et à la vision. Il a enseigné à la faculté de théologie et d’histoire et est actuellement chercheur principal à la bibliothèque universitaire de Tartu.
Il a acquis une réputation d’auteur de fiction spéculative. Son premier roman, Kuldne aeg (litt. : « L’Âge d’or »), traite du rôle de l’histoire dans le façonnement de notre identité et a fini troisième lors d’un concours littéraire national en 2004. L’année suivante, Nerissa a remporté un prix estonien de science-fiction. Friedenthal est également membre du comité de rédaction du webzine Algernon, qui publie des articles, des actualités et des récits de science-fiction. Son roman le plus récent, The Bees, est une vision peu réjouissante de l’aventure et des rencontres d’un étudiant de la fin du XVIIe siècle ayant quitté Leiden pour Tartu. Il a également écrit une postface approfondie sur le contexte historique des événements décrits dans le roman.
Translated by Adam Cullen
It rained all the time. Rain had rotted the crops on the fields, had covered the wooden walls of the buildings with mold, had made ships' deck boards as sopping as seaweed. For already several months' time, Laurentius had been eating rotten bread, had been living in mildewed buildings, and in the last week, had also been sliding across the soggy deck of a ship. Black bile collected within him like sludge atop a stake driven into a riverbed. Now, he finally stepped from the lurching boat onto the harbor dock, onto the slippery boards nailed onto logs that were rammed into the mud beneath the water, and peered hesitatingly at his surroundings. The wind flung drizzle into his face in bursts from the low sky, and he strove to understand what sort of land it was, to which he had arrived by his own free choice. The bare, white sand and lone patches of reeds along the strip of shore, as well as the identical gray clouds very much resembled the harbor, from which he had set off. The mast of the post ship looked just the same against the gray sky, and the sheets that had been raised on it appeared just as gray and featureless as they had when he cast off. Next to the pier, which extended far out into the sea, a jetty buried halfway beneath the muddy water could be seen, and on top of it was an old watchman's house crouched down in the water, which no one had apparently used for already quite some time. These ruins could be found in every harbor, and despite their pitiful appearance, such an image rather instilled a sense of confidence in Laurentius for some reason. Here as well, the harbors had been rebuilt; here as well, they had been enlarged for new ships to dock, and the old watchmen's houses had been abandoned.
He sighed, and nervously adjusted the cover over the cage dripping with rainwater.
He had not been required to make all that much of an effort in bringing his paraphernalia along—one chest hammered together from oak planks fit what he had deemed necessary for bringing with him to school entirely. It was sent to customs together with the goods carried in the ship's hold, and he would apparently only receive it that evening. The ship's cargo—even its passengers' personal baggage—was looked through carefully, and anything at all that could be subject to a tax was written down. There was actually no real worry about that—Laurentius had nothing of great value in the chest; every one of his few personal books was also officially permitted, and he had taken along only the bare minimum of medicines. What posed a difficulty was actually the cage containing a rose-ringed parakeet.