Karl Ristikivi’s wandering Arcadia

Since antiquity the motif of Arcadia has been productive in European cultural history, while undergoing several metamorphoses. The article follows the evolution of the motif in the oeuvre of Karl Ristikivi (1912–1977), relying on the landscapes experienced by the widely travelled author and the works of art critic and theorist Simon Schama, who emphasizes the Light and Dark in Arcadia.
     Ristikivi overtly mentions the motif of Arcadia in three works, notably, the novel Rohtaed („The Herb Garden”, 1942), the poem Minagi olin Arkaadia teel… („I too was heading for Arcadia…”, 1950) and the travelogue Itaalia capriccio („Italian Cappriccio”, 1958). In Ristikivi’s ideals, Arcadia is a bright dreamland, obviously situated in Italy. The original Hellenic Arcadia did not appeal to Ristikivi’s Apollonian nature. Thus he followed the European tradition where Arcadia had already been disassociated from the Greek region of the same name. The poem being inspired by R. L. Stevenson’s treatment of the old Scottish ballad „Skye Boat Song”, Ristikivi’s version suggests that one of his Arcadias might be found on the ascetic Isle of Skye, which most likely was the main destination of the last journey of the aging writer.
     The article points out that Arcadia could be interpreted as a generalization including polar opposites, a light-dark axis enabling analysis of Ristikivi’s oeuvre as a whole.