The author reflects on the time she spent living in an Estonian village on the site of a formerly Soviet collective farm and describes the people she met, the economic conditions, and what life was like in the region.
From 1993 to 1994, Sigrid Rausing completed her anthropological fieldwork on the penninsula of Noarootsi, a former Soviet border protection zone in Estonia. Abandoned watchtowers dotted the coastline, and the huge fields of the Lenin collective farm were laying fallow, waiting for claims from former owners fleeing war and Soviet and Nazi occupation. Rausing's conversations with the local people touched many subjects: the economic privations of post-Soviet existence; the bewildering influx of Western products; and the Swedish background of many of these people. In Everything Is Wonderful, Rausing reflects on history, political repression, and the story of the minority Swedes in the area. She lived and worked amongst the villagers, witnessing their transition from repression to freedom and from Soviet neglect to post-Soviet austerity.
Shortlisted for the 2015 RSL Ondaatje Prize Named one of the Times Literary Supplement's "Books of the Year" "An intimate look at the devastations of communism in Estonia... [ a] sensuous, character-rich portrait of the denuded landscape, ruined economy, and erratic, alcoholic personalities she encountered as a dreamy, lonely observer and teacher... [ Rausing] unearths fascinating history of this remote area, annexed and depleted by Russia, then Germany, then the Soviet Union... A mellifluous portrait of a country slowly and painfully pulling itself into the European world."--Kirkus Reviews "Evocative...With a keen, level eye, Rausing reconstructs the blasted landscape of abandoned farmhouses and watchtowers, the truculent personalities of the locals, including her louche drunken landlord Toivo, and the terrible scars of history."--Publishers Weekly "[ A] warm, uplifting memoir ... Vividly conveys the terminal decline of the collective farm ... The psychological forlornness resulting from such decline is memorably realized ... Subtly and convincingly Sigrid manages to convey, in Noarootsi and beyond, a sense, through all the disappointments, instabilities and poverty, of a people's continuous journey towards a firmer, more inclusive society."--Times Literary Supplement (UK) "An entrancing, dreamlike account of rural life in post-Soviet Estonia ... A strange, wonderful, hallucinatory exploration ... This is not the tale of a moneyed member of the golden elite, but rather of a thoughtful observer trying to make sense of herself and her surroundings. It is extremely affecting."--Telegraph(UK) "Pages of dreamlike prose explore Estonia's terrible Nazi-Soviet past, the trauma of dictatorship and how memory processes that trauma... In Everything is Wonderful [ Rausing] evokes the spirit of a lost Baltic community and, in so doing, has written a rather beautiful book."--Financial Times(UK) "[ An] informative and heartfelt account"--Independent(UK) "Sigrid Rausing's memoir is a charming, unsettling and unusually intimate glimpse into the life of an Estonian village in transition."--Anne Applebaum "A deliciously enjoyable, fascinating and important book that works as scholarship, diary and chronicle--it's a historical study of place, memory and tragedy that reveals the hellish experience of Estonia under Nazis and Soviets, it's a unique anthropological examination of a peculiar now vanished civilisation, the collective farm, and it's also a delightfully quirky diary of a Swedish PhD in the early 1990s that chronicles extraordinary lives of ordinary Estonian people with a playful curiosity."--Simon Sebag Montefiore "Sigrid Rausing's lyrical and evocative description of a former collective farm on a remote peninsula in Estonia portrays the transition from Soviet rule to independence. She shows how the suppression of history in the Soviet Union meant that the villagers knew very little about their past, including the brief period of independence between the two world wars, and the violent Nazi and Soviet occupations that followed. This is a startling and beautiful book."--Lady Antonia Fraser "In this disorientating memoir, Sigrid Rausing describes life as an anthropologist in post-Soviet Estonia. The narrator, her subjects, and their country are caught between worlds, unsure where they are going, why they are going there or indeed if they are going anywhere at all. It is lovely, gentle and very human."--Oliver Bullough "Intimate, lyrical and evocative--Sigrid Rausing's memoir captures a forgotten world, on the cusp between Sovier occupation and a Western future. Her academic fieldwork among the fragments of the ethnic Swedish presence in an Estonian village has produced a finely drawn literary account of people and places, encompassing history, geography, culture and biography."--Edward Lucas "A delicate, precise, and richly informative memoir of a forgotten Europe and a vanished world. Everything Is Wonderful shows that grey can be a very interesting color."--Timothy Garton Ash "In 1993-94, Sigrid Rausing spent a year doing anthropological fieldwork in a former collective farm in post-Soviet Estonia. Twenty years on, that work, and the diaries she kept at the time, and later during a return visit in 2003, come together in this remarkable and instructive book, where continually interesting individual characters are given a broader historical and cultural context. Dr. Rausing combines a keen eye for the telling detail with striking--at times lyrical--descriptions of rural lives and landscapes, and in documenting the "lost futures" of those working there, reminds us again of the dreadful human cost of totalitarianism."--Robert Conquest, author of The Great Terror and The Harvest of Sorrow "Beautiful, gentle and haunting. Every single edge in it seems to be frayed. And what a triumph it is to have allowed that frayedness to survive the whole process of writing it down. It is alive like an old frayed tapestry found in old trunk. Perhaps archaically beautiful is the phrase I am groping after. Like a sort of dance of the blind, slow and gentle, feeling its way, the shoes moving carefully over the floor."--Adam Nicolson
Sigrid Rausing is a writer, philanthropist, anthropologist, and publisher. She is the founder of the Sigrid Rausing Trust and publisher of "Granta" and Granta Books. She has won several awards for her work in philanthropy and human rights, serves on the advisory board of the Coalition for the International Criminal Court, and is an emeritus member of the international board of Human Rights Watch.