Artur Adson

PoemsArtur Adson. Photo: J. & P. Parikas


About Artur Adson

Artur Adson (3. II /22. I 1889 – 5. I 1977) was one of the best-known dialect poets in Estonia, as well as a playwright and critic.

He was born in Tartu, the son of a servant, and grew up with relatives in Vōrumaa. He attended the Tartu school for orphans from 1895 to 1898, Sänna village school, Vōru county school from 1901 to 1907, the Pskov School of Surveying from 1907 to 1910 and the University of Tartu from 1925 to 1926. He worked as a surveyor in the Pskov governorate from 1910 to 1912 and at the Tallinn fortified naval base from 1915 to 1917, as secretary of the Tallinn Planning Committee from 1913 to 1915 and as secretary of the Catering Committee from 1917 to 1918, as an official of the Ministry of Agriculture and head of the Literature Commission at the Ministry of Education. He was a journalist on the newspaper Päevaleht from 1920 to 1924 and in 1934-1935, a playwright at the Tallinn Drama Theatre in 1921-1922 and at the Vanemuine theatre in Tartu in 1924-1925, and was a film censor at the Ministry of Internal Affairs from 1935 to 1940. In 1939 Adson was awarded the Order of the White Star of the Republic of Estonia, IV class. During the German occupation he worked on the newspaper Maa Sōna. In 1913 he got to know Marie Under, whom he married in 1924. In September 1944 he and Under escaped to Sweden, where in 1945 they settled in Stockholm by Lake Mälaren; he worked in the archive of the Drottningholm Theatre Museum and in the Royal Library. Adson died in Stockholm and was buried in the Stockholm Woodland Cemetery. In 2016 the remains of Adson and Marie Under were reinterred at Rahumäe cemetery in Tallinn. Nowadays the private home whose construction was overseen by A. Adson at Nōmme in Tallinn serves as the museum section of the Under and Tuglas Literary Centre, part of the Estonian Academy of Sciences.
Adson started writing poetry under Under’s influence; the role of the Page attendant upon the Princess of the Siuru group became his lifelong passion. He took an active part in the Siuru and Tarapita literary circles, he worked for the Odamees publishing house and established a small publisher, Auringo. He was a member of the Estonian Writers’ Union, the Estonian Playwrights’ Union, the Tallinn Writers’ Association and the Estonian Writers’ Union Abroad, being on their boards of management. In 1974 he received the prize of the Estonian Cultural Foundation in the USA.
Adson published collections of poetry in the Vōru dialect [of southern Estonia], Henge palango (‘Burning of the Soul’, 1917), Vana laterna (‘The Old Lantern’, 1919), Roosikrants (‘The Rosary’, 1920), Kaduvik (‘Impermanence’, 1921), Katai, kibuvits nink kivi (‘The Juniper, the Brier and the Stone’, 1928), Pärlijōgi (‘The Pearl River’, 1931), and Lehekülg ajaraamatust (‘A page from the Book of Time’, 1937). In Sweden Adson published two volumes of verse: Rahumäe kannel (‘The Rahumäe Lyre’, 1973) and the selection Värsivakk (‘The Verse Bin’, 1959). Adson’s first collections reflect the idylls of his youth and the warmth of love, nuanced with gentle humour. From his third collection onward, social motifs and Expressionist notes are added; later, thoughts of transience and a depressive note spring up. Besides his elegiac lyricism, he takes up narrative poetry, and heartfelt ballads in the collection Pärlijōgi.
Adson also tried his hand as a playwright. The journal Looming published his Expressionist play Läheb mööda (‘Passing’, 1923), followed by the verse dramas Toomapäev (‘St. Thomas’ Day’, 1928), and Neli kuningat (‘Four Kings’, 1931), depicting the ancient Estonians’ struggle for freedom. The relationship between Koidula and Kreutzwald is portrayed in the drama Lauluisa ja kirjaneitsi (‘Father of Song and Mistress of Letters’, 1930). The contemporary scene is pictured in the dramas Kolmas tee (‘The Third Way’, 1932), Üks tuvi lendab merele (‘One Dove Flies Out to Sea’, 1937), and the comedies of everyday life Iluduskuninganna (‘The Beauty Queen’, 1932), Elav kapital ehk, sōber, laena 20 senti (‘Living Capital, or, Buddy, Lend Me 20 Cents’, 1934) and Karu läheb mee lōksu (‘The Bear Goes into the Honey-trap’, 1936). Adson’s plays were all performed, some of them several times, but their artistic level does not equal his poetry. He published plenty of demanding theatre reviews, collected in the volume Vilet ja loorbereid (‘Whistles and Laurels’, 1938). He expounded on the story of the Estonian theatre in the books Das estnische Theater (1933) and Teatriraamat (‘The Theatre Book’, 1958).
In old age, Adson wrote his memoirs; Neli veskit (‘Four Mills’) and Väikelinna moosekant (‘Small-town Musician’, 1946) nostalgically describe his childhood in Vōrumaa; Ise idas – silmad läänes (‘Myself in the East, My Eyes in the West’, 1948) tells of his studies in Pskov and his first work in Russia; Siuru-raamat (‘The Siuru Book’, 1949) recalls literary life in Tallinn between 1913 and 1940, centred around Under. Reisiraamat (‘The Travel Book’, 1950) and Lahkumine (‘Departure’, 1951) reflect on the two poets’ travels, their flight from their homeland and literary connections. Marie Underi eluraamat I-II (‘The Life of Marie Under’, 1974) presents recollections of Under by Adson and others, creative materials, criticism and reprints of commemorative publications.
Adson also wrote some pieces for children, and translated from German and Russian: Bernhard Kellermann’s Ingeborg, Friedrich Hebbel’s Judith, Nikolai Gogol’s Taras Bulba, Boris Pasternak’s Dr. Zhivago and others. He left behind a considerable legacy of manuscripts, consisting of, apart from diaries and fragments of dramas, a substantial amount of correspondence: his letters to Friedebert Tuglas have been published (2011). Adson’s poetry has stimulated the revival of Vōru-dialect literature today.

A. M. (Translated by C. M.)

Books in Estonian

Arthur Adson, Henge palango. Tallinn: Siuru, 1917, 46 lk. [2., täiendatud trükk: 1920; 3. trükk: 1921.]
Arthur Adson, Wana laterna: laulu. Talliinan: Siuru, 1919, 63 lk. [2., täiendatud trükk: 1920.]
Arthur Adson, Roosikrants, Talliinan: Varrak, 1920, 62 lk.
Arthur Adson, Kaduwik. Tallinn: Eesti Kirjanikkude Liit, 1927, 77 lk.
Arthur Adson, Katai, kibuwits, nink kiwi: wiies kogu wärsse. Tartu: Eesti Kirjanikkude Liit, 1928, 78 lk.
Arthur Adson, Pärlijõgi: kuwwes kogu wärsse. Tartu: Eesti Kirjanikkude Liit, 1931, 70 lk.
Lehekülg ajaraamatust: (värsse 1931-1935). Tartu: Eesti Kirjanike Liit, 1937, 63 lk.
Värsivakk: valik katsest vihust. Eessõna: Ivar Grünthal, autori illustratsioonid. Stokholm: Vaba Eesti, 1959, 191 lk.
Rahumäe kannel. Autori illustratsioonid, Lund: Eesti Kirjanike Kooperatiiv, 1973, 71 lk.
Artur Adson. Koostanud Oskar Kruus. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1990, 135 lk. [Sari ‘Väike luuleraamat’.]
Varjuliste puie all: luuletused = luulõtusõ’. Koostanud Õnne Kepp, toimetanud Õnne Kepp ja Tiia Allas, saatesõnad Õnne Kepp ja Tiia Allas. Tallinn; Võru: Eesti Keele Sihtasutus, 2014, 535 lk.

Short stories
Arthur Adson, Käsikivi: kakskümmend pisilugu ja üks jutustus. Tallinn: Tallinna Eesti Kirjastus-Ühisus, 1922, 105 lk.

Arthur Adson, Toomapäev: draama 3 vaatuses. Tartu: Loodus, 1928, 78 lk.
Arthur Adson, Lauluisa ja Kirjaneitsi: näidend kolmes vaatuses. Tallinn: Eesti Haridusliit, 1930, 66 lk.
Neli kuningat: vaatemäng neljateistkümnendast sajandist 4 vaatuses (12 pildis). Tallinn: T. Mutsu, 1931, 48 lk.
Peeter Bollmann, Kolmas tee: draama 4 vaatuses (5 järgus). Tallinn: Eesti Haridusliit, 1932, 154 lk.
Iluduskuninganna: komöödia 3 vaatuses. Tallinn: T. Mutsu, 1933, 65 lk.
Elav kapital, ehk, Sõber laena 20 senti: rahvatükk 3 vaatuses. Tallinn: Eesti Haridusliit, 1934, 163 lk.
Karu läheb mee lõksu: komöödia kolmes vaatuses (1 vaat. 2-es järgus). Tallinn: Autorikaitse Ühing, 1936, 122 lk.
Üks tuvi lendab merele: näidend 3 vaatuses. Tallinn: Autorikaitse Ühing, 1937, 123 lk.

Children’s books
Nakits: lugu väikesest lõbusast ja targast koerast pärisnoortele, kes lugusid armastavad, ja vähemnoortele, kes ütlemise viisist lugu peavad. Kirja pannud Sänna trubaduur ehk pärisnimega Artur Adson; piltidega kaunistanud Liida Jürisson. Tallinn: Eesti Kirjastus, 1944, 68 lk. [2. trükk: Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1993.]

Neli veskit: mälestusi olnud aegadest, kohatud inimestest ja käidud paikadest. Sajas miniatuuris jutustanud Artur Adson. Vadstena: Orto, 1946, 220 lk. [2. trükk: ‘Neli veskit; Väikelinna moosekant; Ise idas – silmad läänes’, Tallinn: Eesti Päevaleht, 2010, 528 lk.]
Väikelinna moosekant: mälestusi Võru linnast sajandi algul. Vadstena: Orto, 1946, 253 lk. [2. trükk: ‘Neli veskit; Väikelinna moosekant; Ise idas – silmad läänes’, Tallinn: Eesti Päevaleht, 2010, 528 lk.]
Ise idas – silmad läänes: mälestusi 1905. a. revolutsiooni ja esimese maailmasõja vaheaastaist. Vadstena: Orto, 1948, 293 lk. [2. trükk: ‘Neli veskit; Väikelinna moosekant; Ise idas – silmad läänes’, Tallinn: Eesti Päevaleht, 2010, 528 lk.]
Siuru-raamat. Vadstena: Orto, 1949, 262 lk. [2. trükk: Tallinn: Tänapäev, 2007, 358 lk.]
Reisiraamat. Göteborg: Orto, 1950, 307 lk.
Lahkumine: ülestähendusi viimasest aastatosinast. Toronto: Orto, 1951, 204 lk. [2. trükk: Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1994, 133 lk.]
Kadunud maailm: pilte kaugemast ja lähemast minevikust. Toronto: Orto, 1954, 296 lk.

Other non-fiction
Vilet ja loorbereid: kakskümmend aastat eesti teatrit jälgimas. Tartu; Tallinn: Loodus, 1938, 280 lk.
Teatriraamat: ajalugu ja isiklikke kogemusi. Stockholm: Vaba Eesti, 1958, 230 lk.
Artur Adson, Friedebert Tuglas, Paaži ja Felixi kirjavahetus 1917-1944. Koostanud ja kommenteerinud August Eelmäe; toimetanud ja kommentaare täiendanud Ülle Kurs ja Õnne Kepp; kujundanud Jaan Klõšeiko. Tallinn: Underi ja Tuglase Kirjanduskeskus, 2011, 614 lk.