The ultimate literary model (not only for Kross but for Shakespeare, Napoleon, and others) for such a conception of history is, of course, Plutarch's Bioi paralleloi, which model nevertheless is challenged by Henry Ford's "History is bunk," by my "Those who believe that history repeats itself are condemned to repeat themselves," and by Voltaire's "History is a pack of tricks played upon the dead." But Kross's narrative multipentimento, so to speak, can be reconciled with general skepticism about historiography, not only by the poetic license traditionally granted the historical novelist, but also by Kross's actual practice (without benefit of New Historicist prompting), which implies that both historiography and historical fiction are, after all, both narratives--different in method and purpose, but similar in kind.
Indeed, Tabamatus includes dozens of historical figures in its cast of characters, rounding these off with still others who are not identifiable by name but nevertheless a clef. Furthermore, the concrete details, both "real" and "invented," of the material lives of the "fictional" protagonist, Vilms, Kross, and Andree round out the novel in grand style. A projected index of names to this book would be quite lengthy, and the overlapping and inter-penetrating of (hi)stories of characters from different decades is, for the most part, sure-handed and convincing, extending even to the present, including the reachievement, in 1991, of a sovereign Estonia.
More could be said about the absence of the darker and sillier sides of human nature in the novel, the various articulations of the narrator's frame story with the insets, the treatment of the love interest, and the (predictable) "coincidence" which even more directly unites the protagonist with Vilms. But we had better close with a metatextual salute to the historical Jaan Kross, currently at work on his most recent historical novel, in a free Estonia envisioned by the martyred Juri Vilms.
George Kurman Western Illinois University