Mis Noor-Eesti Liivi-kaanonisse ei mahtunud. Juhan Liiv and Young Estonia


  • Jüri Talvet




In this article an attempt is made to cast light on the complicated relationship between Juhan Liiv (1864– 1913) – perhaps the greatest Estonian lyrical poet of all times – and the Young Estonia (Noor-Eesti) cultural movement, which played a fundamental role in laying the foundations of Estonian literary culture at the beginning of the 20th century. Since Liiv himself, mentally ill and living in great poverty, did not publish any books, the Young Estonians – first the poet Gustav Liiv and, then, more decisively, the short story writer and essayist Friedebert Tuglas, took up the task of establishing a canon of Liiv’s poetry for Estonia. The dynamics of Liiv’s poetic canon as established by Young Estonia – especially, by Tuglas’ edition of Juhan Liivi luuletused (1926, Juhan Liiv’s Poems) and his substantial monograph on Liiv’s life and work, Juhan Liiv (1927) – are viewed in the context of the fate of Liiv’s poetry in Estonian letters in a later period, after World War II. Aarne Vinkel, a literary historian, made important additions to the canon with his edition of Juhan Liiv’s Teosed (1954, Works). Vinkel’s selection Sinuga ja sinuta (1989, With You and Without You) is the largest edition of Liiv’s poetry to date. In view of Tuglas’ continued and considerable prestige in Soviet Estonia, it is probable that quite a few of Liiv’s poems discovered and published by Vinkel on the basis of Liiv’s manuscripts have still remained relatively unknown to the wider Estonian reading public. On the other hand, without Vinkel’s post-war corroboration of the canon of Liiv’s poetry established by the Young Estonians, Liiv’s image as a poet would have appeared much more fragmentary.


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