Anton Hansen-Tammsaare (1878-1940) is the most famous Estonian writer whose main work Truth and Justice is known to almost every Estonian. In the shadow of the public figure and well-known writer stood a clever, wise and sensitive man with a complicated destiny. Our literary history depicts an introverted and reserved loner, who might have even seem dull sometimes. Tammsaare was a loner indeed in case of crowded meetings and celebrations but among friends he was sociable, charming and quite talkative.
Tammsaare moved to Tallinn on 1 September, 1919. As a journalist, he had been living in the capital for short periods before but he changed his living place quite often when he studied at Tartu University. His bad health did not allow him to sit for his final exams, he left Tartu for his brother’s palce in Koitjärve. His TBC became a serious problem and so he went to the Caucasus, where a few years in the Estonian settlement Punase Lageda finally cured his disease. Having come back to Koitjärve he was forced to leave again soon to go to Tartu to be operated on stomach trouble. His chances of recovery were considered to be almost nil but he survived.
After a miraculous recovery he went back to Koitjärve, suffering from several crises in personal and social life (the First World War). All this, however, found an outlet in his magnificent work. Marriage brought him to Tallinn in 1919.
His first home after that was in Õuna Street, the next in Toom-Kuninga Street and the last home of his family (wife Käthe and their two children: daughter Riia ans son Eerik) was at 12 A, Koidula Street, in Kadriorg.
When the family moved to Koidula Street, Tammsaare was already an acknowledged writer. He still had to read, write and translate every day and all day, however, to earn his living and support the family. He could not relax even in summer when he used to redecorate the flat and write a lot. He never had time to enjoy his life and fame, his life was a constant struggle of earning his living, recovering from illness or getting over disappointments in love.
It is said that suffering makes a better man; Tammsaare’s sufferings are best expressed in his work. His novels, essays and short prose with their sensitive realism and cognisance still can stagger and impress the reader. Tammsaare has found an eternal place in his readers’ hearts due to his original language, his line of thought full of paradoxes and unconventional characters living simultaneously in their own time and in eternity. All that makes his work special and attractive for readers of different times.
His translations of H. Lawrence, O. Wilde and F. Dostoyevsky have been republished now and again.
Tammsaare died of heart failure at the age of 62, on 1 March 1940.
Tammsaare’s first short stories were published already in 1900 in the newspaper Postimees. From among these first stories The Old People of Mäetaguse (1901), Two Couples and One Single (1902) and The Old and the Young (1903) have found special recognition. The style and the subject matter that he later made his own, can already be noticed in these stories.
His university years have been perpetuated in the so-called student’s short stories. The time in the Caucasus gave him inspiration to write artificial fairy-tales and miniatures. When he lived at his brother’s in Koitjärve, after his stomach operation, he wrote a longer impressionistic story Shades where he used his Caucasian experience but that was published only in 1917. Due to the social crises (the First World War) he wrote critical articles on current social and political affairs, like his Thoughts about the War. Together with being busy with his original work, he started to translate and kept publishing articles that are witty and timeless. He left Koitjärve in 1919 and began his career as a freelance author in Tallinn. His work changed and his first play Judith (Juudit) heralded the highlights of his career when it was published in 1921. Next year the novel Master of Kõrboja (Kõrboja peremees) was published and the famous Truth and Justice (Tõde ja õigus I-V, 1926-1933) followed. In the1930s the novels Life and Love (Elu ja armastus, 1934), I Loved a German Girl (Ma armastasin sakslast, 1935) and his play The King is Cold(Kuningal on külm, 1936) were published. His last novel, written and published the year before his death in 1939 – The Misadventures of the New Satan (Põrgupõhja uus Vanapagan) – attracted quite a lot of attention both at home and abroad.
H. Tammsaare’s works in different languages
Judith (Juudit, 1921)
Russian (1968), Hungary (1999), Bulgaria (2009)
Master of Kõrboja (Kõrboja peremees, 1922)
Latvia (1925), Finnish (1929), Hungary (1933, 1970), Swedish ( 1938), Netherland (1940, 1941), German (1958), Lithuania (1960), Russian (1968), Esperanto (1976)
Truth and Right (Tõde ja õigus, 1926-1933)
Finnish (osa/part I 1932, 2002; II 2004; III 2007; IV 2010; V 1935)
Latvia ( osapart I 1936, 1937; II-III 1936, 1938; IV 1936, 1938; V 1936, 1938; I – V 1957)
German (Osa/part I 1938, 1970; II-III 1939; II 1980, III 1983; IV 1940, 1988; V 1941, 1989)
Netherland (osa/part I 1939; II 1941)
French (osa/part I – V 1944, 1948; I – V 2009-2010)
Russian (osa/part I -V 1953-1967)
Czech (osa/part I-V 1976-1983)
Lithuania (osa/part I 2009)
Life and Love (Elu ja armastus, 1934)
Latvia (1938), Russian (1975), Bulgaria (1978), Lithuania (1978), Armenia (1978), Czech (1981)
I loved a German Girl (Ma armastasin sakslast, 1935)
Russian (1968), Latvia ( 1974), German (1977)
The King Feels Cold (Kuningal on külm, 1936)
Russian (1955, 1968), Bulgaria (2009)
The Misadventures of the New Satan (Põrgupõhja uus Vanapagan, 1939)
Latvia (1942, 1951), German (1959, 1960), Lithuania (1957), Hungary (1959), Swedish (1963), English (1978, 2009), Finnish (1964), Czech (1978), Ukrain (1978), Uzbek (1984), Polish (1983), Russian (1955, 1956, 1957, 1965, 1968, 1977)
Short stories, miniatures (Novellid, jutustused, miniatuurid)
Finnish (1924, 1936), German (1936, 1979), Russian (1950, 1955, 1968, 1975, 1976, 1977, 1984), Polish (1951), Romania (1958), Azerbaidzhan (1958), Chuvash (1959), Lithuania (1963), Kazakh (1971), English (1977), Moldovian (1978), Tajiki ( 1978), Georgian (1978), Latvia ( 1974, 1978, 1982), Hungary (1978), Turkmen (1980), Belarus (1980), Bulgaria (1982, 2009), Kirghiz (1984),
Hill Mari (2005)