Vladimir Beekman (23. VIII 1929 – 3. X 2009) was a prose writer, poet, children's author and translator.
He was born in Tallinn, studied in Nõmme, Narva and Tallinn. When the war broke out, he was evacuated in 1941 to Leningrad, where he lived through the blockade. After some years living in Soviet Russia, he returned in 1946 to Estonia, where he acquired a secondary education and graduated as a chemical engineer from the faculty of mining at the Tallinn Polytechnic Institute. From 1953 to 1956 he was chief editor of fiction at the Estonian State Publishing House. He was a member of the Writers’ Union from 1951, and a professional writer from 1956. He was a member of the board of the Writers’ Union from 1954, its secretary from 1968 to 1971, first secretary from 1971 to 1976, and chairman from 1983 to 1995. He also took part in political life: a member of the CPSU from 1959 to 1990, of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Estonia from 1977 to 1990. He was a deputy in the Supreme Soviet of the Estonian SSR from 1975 to 1979 and also a member of its Presidium from 1979 to 1984, a deputy in the Supreme Soviet of the USSR from 1970 to 1974 and 1984 to 1989. He was a member of the central committee of the USSR-Sweden Friendship Association (1977), a Merited Writer of the Estonian SSR in 1975. For his poetry collection Olematu puu ('The Non-existent Tree', 1969) he received the annual literature prize of the ESSR in 1970; for his young people’s book Raua-Roobert ('Iron Roobert', 1972) he received the J. Smuul prize (1973). The poem Eesti naised ('Women of Estonia', published in the journal Looming in 1988 he won the J. Liiv poetry prize (1989). In 2002 he was awarded the Order of the White Star, Class IV. He was married to the writer Aimée Beekman (b. 1933). He died in Tallinn, and is buried at the Rahumäe cemetery in Tallinn.
His first poems appeared in 1945 in a newspaper in Bori, in Gorky oblast; his first poems in Estonian appeared in 1948 in the newspaper Noorte Hääl, and his first collection in 1952. His creative path was initially influenced by the Soviet attitude to life and stamped with the typical Soviet stock phrases of the time. In the collections Laul noorusest ('Song of Youth', 1952) and Tee ellu ('The Road to Life', 1955) he approaches several Soviet themes with a youthful energy. From the beginning he had a marked interest in social problems and the relationship of the individual to society. The subjects and form of his poetry became more diverse in the nineteen-sixties. Signs of a change of direction are noted in Tuul kanarbikus ('Wind in the Heather', 1958), where one can discern associative imagery. He also wrote long poems, such as Ida-Euroopa valgus (The Light of Eastern Europe, 1963), which earned him attention. Changes in his poetry can be observed even more clearly in the collection Olematu puu. Time as a philosophical concept runs through the collection Rüsinatund ('The Crowding Hour', 1971). A survey of his poetic course is provided by the selections Pühvliluht ('Buffalo Meadow', 1974) and Tasakaaluhetk ('Moment of Balance', 2010).
His main output in the nineteen-seventies was prose. Beekman was one of those authors who dealt with human destinies and choices within the labyrinth of history and with post-war society, chiefly from the standpoint of realism. His first novel, Transiitreisija ('Transit Traveller', 1967) examines the choices and viewpoints of two people with a similar starting position during the war and in the world after it. As an example one might take Öölendurid ('Night Pilots', 1975) which observes people inhibited by a totalitarian system. Similar to this is the admonitory eco-critical science fiction novel Eesli aasta ('Year of the Donkey', 1979). The course of the battles on Estonian territory in summer 1941 is traced in the novel Ja sada surma ('And a Hundred Deaths', 1978). The epistolary novel Koridor ('The Corridor', 1982) concentrates on the resettlement of Baltic Germans from Estonia in 1939. The action of the novel Narva kosk ('Narva Falls', 1986) takes place in two time-frames.
He also gained attention as an author for children and young people who fathomed his protagonists’ world view, a skilful narrator. Aatomik ('Atomic', 1959) and its sequel Aatomik ja küberneetiline karu ('Atomic and the Cybernetic Bear', 1968), as well as Raua-Roobert have become Beekman’s best-known works overall. The world of orphanage children under grim temporal and social conditions, in the blockade of Leningrad, is examined in the pair of books Karmil kevadel ('A Harsh Spring', 1957) and Pea püsti, poisid! ('Chin Up, Boys!', 1961), which appeared in revised form under the title Kodutute kodu ('Home of the Homeless', 1985).
He was one of the mostly widely travelled Estonian writers, and most productive of travel books, whose geographical reach can be seen from the titles of the travelogues he published: Island 1958 ('Iceland 1958', 1959), Sügis Rootsi kuningriigis ('Autumn in the Kingdom of Sweden', 1960), Kauge maa – Brasiilia ('A Distant Land – Brazil', 1963), Euroopa ristteedel ('At the Crossroads of Europe', with his wife Aimée Beekman, 1965), Vahemaandumised: Kanadas, Soomes, Armeenias, Tadžikistanis ja Norras ('Stopovers: in Canada, Finland, Armenia, Tajikistan and Norway', 1972), Mehhiko – Päikesekivi maa ('Mexico – Land of the Sun-stone', 1975), Maakera kuklapoolel ('At the Nape of the World', 1977).
He was a very productive and diverse translator. Indeed, Estonian readers know Vladimir Beekman best today as the translator of Astrid Lindgren’s and Tove Jansson’s works.
A. K. (Translated by C. M.)
Books in Estonian
Transiitreisija. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1967, 207 lk.
Öölendurid. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1975, 120 lk.
Ja sada surma. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1978, 416 lk.
Eesli aasta. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1979, 255 lk.
Koridor. Romaan kirjades. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1982, 295 lk.
Narva kosk. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1986, 207 lk.
Laul noorusest. Tallinn: Eesti Riiklik Kirjastus, 1952, 104 lk.
Tee ellu. Tallinn: Eesti Riiklik Kirjastus, 1955, 99 lk.
Tuul kanarbikus. Luuletusi 1956-1957. Tallinn: Eesti Riiklik Kirjastus, 1958, 55 lk.
Linnutee. Tallinn: Eesti Riiklik Kirjastus, 1960, 61 lk.
Ida-Euroopa valgus. Poeem. Tallinn: Eesti Riiklik Kirjastus, 1963, 64 lk.
Sinine tulp. Luuletused, poeem. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1965, 128 lk.
Olematu puu. Luuletusi 1965-1968. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1969, 87 lk.
Rüsinatund. Luuletusi 1969-1970. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1971, 80 lk.
Pühvliluht. Valitud luuletused ja poeemid. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1974, 290 lk.
Lõpp ja algus. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1989, 59 lk.
Tasakaaluhetk. Luulevalimik. Koostanud Vladimir Beekman ja Aimée Beekman. Tallinn: Tänapäev, 2010, 103 lk.
Rahutu teekond. Tallinn: Eesti Riiklik Kirjastus, 1956, 83 lk.
Karmil kevadel. Tallinn: Eesti Riiklik Kirjastus, 1957, 168 lk.
Aatomik. Tallinn: Eesti Riiklik Kirjastus, 1959, 24 lk. [Järgnevad trükid: 1974, 1988, 2010.]
Kurbade kivide linn. Tallinn: Eesti Riiklik Kirjastus, 1959, 316 lk. [2. trükk 1966.]
Autode kohus. Tallinn: Eesti Riiklik Kirjastus, 1961, 35 lk.
Kõnelev kaaslane. Tallinn: Eesti Riiklik Kirjastus, 1961, 56 lk.
Pea püsti, poisid!. Tallinn: Eesti Riiklik Kirjastus, 1961, 192 lk.
Aatomik ja küberneetiline karu. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1968, 40 lk. [Järgnevad trükid: 1974, 1988, 2010.]
Raua-Roobert. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1972, 120 lk.
Aatomik. [Multifilmi stsenaarium.] Illustreerinud Heino Sampu. Tallinn: Perioodika, 1980, 20 lk.
Kodutute kodu. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1985, 303 lk.
Island 1958. Reisimärkmeid. Tallinn: Eesti Riiklik Kirjastus, 1959, 72 lk.
Sügis Rootsi kuningriigis. Tallinn: Eesti Riiklik Kirjastus, 1960, 97 lk.
Kauge maa – Brasiilia. Tallinn: Eesti Riiklik Kirjastus, 1963, 131 lk.
Vladimir Beekman, Aimée Beekman, Euroopa ristteedel. Reisimärkmeid Austriast ja Hollandist. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1965, 200 lk.
Vahemaandumised. Kanadas, Soomes, Armeenias, Tadžikistanis ja Norras: 1967-1971. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1972, 157 lk.
Maakera kuklapoolel. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1977, 332 lk.
Mehhiko – Päikesekivi maa. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1975, 144 lk.
Alles see oli…. Tallinn: Tänapäev, 2008, 207 lk.