Estonian literature in latvian in the 1990s

by Maima Grīnberga

An overview of Estonian literature in Latvian in the 1990s

In terms of the number of active translators, translated Estonian authors and the availability of information, the situation in Latvia is excellent. At the translators’ seminar in Käsmu last spring it became clear that in this area small Latvia does not lag much behind such big Estophile countries as Finland, Hungary and Sweden. However, the overall critical reception is insignificant, which does not show critics’ negative attitude towards Estonian literature, but rather the general situation of literary criticism in Latvia.

The last translated book in 1995 was Viivi Luik’s Seitsmes rahukevad (The Last Spring of Peace), by Anna Žīgure who was successfully doing her ambassadorial work throughout the 1990s.

In 1992, Astrīda Ivaska translated Ivar Ivask’s Verandaraamat (The Veranda Book).

Rūta Karma translated Viivi Luik’s Ajaloo ilu (The Beauty of History) in 1995. She also published Jaan Kaplinski’s essays and short prose by Asta Põldmäe, Eeva Park, Lehte Hainsalu, Mari Saat, Jaak Jõerüüt and Jaan Kruusvall in various magazines.
Rūta Karma is currently busy translating Mari Saat’s Võlu ja vaim (Charm and Spirit).

Guntars Godiņš published Emil Tode’s Piiririik (Border State) in 1995; in 1998 he produced five small poetry booklets in a cassette  (Artur Alliksaars’ Olematus võiks ka olemata olla, Tõnu Õnnepalu’s Päikese orjad, Doris Kareva’s Fraktaalia, Paul-Eerik Rummo’s Saatja aadress, Hando Runnels’ Punaste õhtute purpur); in 2001 he translated Jaan Kaplinski’s poetry under the title Tolmust ja värvist (Of Dust and Colours). Godiņš has also published numerous translations of Estonian poetry in magazines (Alliksaar, Contra, Kaplinski, Kivisildnik, Krull, Laaban, Sinijärv, Tode, Traat, Viiding, etc.). He is currently compiling and translating a collection of Estonian folk songs.

Rein Merten, an exile translator, published Arved Viirlaid’s novel Märgitud (Marked) in 1999.

Books translated by Maima Grīnberga include Enn Vetemaa’s Ristirahvas (Christians, 1997), Jaan Kross’s Keisri hull (Tsar’s Madman, 1999), Maimu Berg’s Ma armastasin venelast (I Loved a Russian, 2000). In the press she has published excerpts of novels and short stories by Ristikivi, Tuglas, Berg, Sauter, Ehlvest, Kivirähk, Tode, Kender; poetry by Laaban, Jaan Undusk’s play Goodbye Vienna (Gertrud) (Karogs 8/2000), and Jüri Ehlvest’s short novel Elli lend (Elli’s Flight, Karogs 6/2000).
In 2000, the cultural magazine LML published Jaan Kaplinski’s columns in Maima Grīnberga’s translation. She is now working with Jaan Kross’s Paigallend (Treading Air). Over 7 years, she has contributed overviews of the magazines Looming and Vikerkaar for the magazine Kargos (in 1998 this was done by Guntars Godiņš).

Several translations have appeared in the press by Lelde Rozīte and Oskars Kigels.

Literature for children is represented by Hino Väli’s Silver Ükssilm (One-Eyed Silver) and Admirali vanne (Admiral’s Oath, 1990) translated by Anna Žīgure, two translations by Kārlis Mālbergs (Dagmar Normet’s Une-Mati, Päris-Mati ja Tups and Aino Pervik’s Arabella, mereröövli tütar (Arabella, Pirate’s Daughter, 1994) and two translations by Tamāra Vilsone (Eno Raud’s Naksitrallid (The Three Jolly Fellows, 1990) and Jälle need Naksitrallid (1992)).

A phenomenon in its own right is Jaan Tätte’s play Ristumine peateega (Highway Crossing) that has been translated twice. One version was by theatre director Alvis Hermanis who staged the play at the Riga New Theatre; the other translation was by Janus Johansson, performed by the Valmiera Drama Theatre.

The 1990s saw the publication of several reprints.
In 1993 Anton Hansen Tammsaare’s Elu ja armastus (Life and Love, first published in 1938); translator Elīna Zālīte.
In 1994 Johannes Semper’s Kivi kivi peale (Stone Upon Stone, first published in 1941); translator Adele Varik.
In 1994 August Gailit’s Toomas Nipernaadi (first published in 1942); translator Adele Solla.

As mentioned at the beginning, the reception has been rather modest, and the only thing the translators hear are the personal expressions of delight from grateful readers, although, in the words of Rūta Karma, some readers are bewildered by the grim and gloomy nature of Estonian literature.

Maima Grīnberga