Jaan Kross

PoemsJaan Kross. Photo: Viktor Salmre


Short stories and novellas



About Jaan Kross

Jaan Kross (19. II 1920 – 27. XII 2007) was one of the best-known Estonian prose writers, and a poet, essayist and translator.

He was born in Tallinn, the son of a machinery factory foreman; from 1928 to 1938 he attended J. Westholm secondary school, and studied law at Tartu University from 1938 to 1944. In 1938 he joined the academic fraternity Estonian Students Society, and in 1988 was one of those who revived it. From 1940 to 1941 he was a contributor to the Komsomol’s (Young Communist League’s) journal Noorte Hääl. During the German occupation from 1941 to 1943 he was a secretary at the Tallinn City Bank. In 1943 he was an interpreter for the German army district command headquarters; at the end of the occupation in 1944 he was imprisoned by the German security police and the SD, and taken to Tallinn Central Prison for preliminary investigation. After the war, from 1944 to 1946, he worked briefly at Tartu University as a lecturer in national and international law. In 1946 he was arrested by People’s Commissariat of State Security of the Estonian SSR, found guilty by a special deliberation of the NKVD, was a political prisoner at the Central Prison and in the GULAG camps in the Komi ASSR, where he was put to work mining coal, and was exiled in Krasnoyarsk Krai, where he worked in a brick factory; he was released in 1954, and rehabilitated in 1960. From 1954 he was a professional writer in Tallinn. He became a member of the Writers’ Union in 1958, the secretary of his board in 1971, its deputy chairman in 1981. He was a Social Democratic deputy in Parliament and chairman of the commission investigating the repressive policies of the occupations from 1992 to 1993. He was Professor of Liberal Arts at Tartu University in 1998. He was married three times. His first wife Helga Kross (née Pedusaar, later Helga Viira) translated Estonian literature into German; his second wife, also Helga Kross (née Roos) translated German literature into Estonian. His third wife Ellen Niit was a poet, children’s author and translator. Jaan Kross was the father of Kristiina Ross, Maarja Undusk, Erik-Niiles Kross and Märten Kross. He is buried in Rahumäe Cemetery in Tallinn.
Kross’ first efforts in poetry and prose appeared between 1935 and 1940 in the student publications Eesti Noorte Punane Rist, Tuleviku Rajad and the journal Tänapäev. In the mid-nineteen-fifties he was prominent as a poet and translator of poetry, and was active in the Young Authors’ Association in Tallinn, whose chairman he was from 1957 to 1960. He published the collections Söerikastaja (‘The Coal Enricher’, 1958), Kivist viiulid (‘Violins of Stone’, 1964), Lauljad laevavööridel (‘Singers at the Ships’ Fores’, 1966) and Vihm teeb toredaid asju (‘Rain does nice things’, 1969), the poem Tuule-Juku (‘Juku of Wind’, 1963) and the selection Voog ja kolmpii (‘Stream and Trident’, 1971, Smuul Prize 1972). His poetry is characterized by a socially critical stance which prevails over emotional lyricism and contemplation; he craves freedom and spirituality, rejects stupidity and the pressure of violence. Kross’ powerfully intellectual and associative free verse, his virtuosity with metre and rhyme, his thematic diversity and dialectical outlook, his departure point in the high style of pre-war Estonian poetry, inspired a censored and muted literary atmosphere and offered a model for the renewal of poetry in the nineteen-sixties, although he had to suffer ideological attacks as well. The best-known poetical works are the ballad Irax, with its allusions to Stalinism (1952/1956) and the free-verse poems Maailma avastamine (‘The Discovery of the World’, 1963) and Traktaat riimitud ja riimimata värsist (‘Treatise on Rhymed and Unrhymed Verse’, 1964).  

From the nineteen-seventies onward Kross turned to prose about Estonian cultural history. He began with narratives on subjects from the past: Neli monoloogi Püha Jüri asjus (‘Four Monologues on the Subject of Saint George’, 1970; Tuglas short story prize 1971) depicts the restricted intellectual life of medieval Tallinn through the eyes of the artist Michel Sittow; the self-examining protagonist of Michelsoni immatrikuleerimine (‘The Elevation of Michelson’, 1971) is the suppressor of the Pugachev Rebellion, Johann Michelson, a general of Estonian origin in the Tsar’s army; J. W. Jannsen’s relations with the Estonian Knighthood of the Baltic Germans are considered in the internal monologue of Pöördtoolitund (‘An Hour on a Revolving Chair’, 1971; Tuglas short story prize 1972). Kross’ central subject is the self-realization of gifted people of low status (generally Estonian) in a higher society which rejects them, requiring them to steer a course between principle and compromise. Between 1970 and 1980 came one of his main works, the four-volume historical novel Kolme katku vahel (Between Three Plagues; vols. I and II were winners of the Smuul Prize in 1973, vols. I-III winners of the Estonian SSR State Prize in 1977). The work depicts at close quarters a chronicle of 16th century Tallinn, the life of the ethnic Estonian pastor Balthasar Russow as interpreted by the author, and the urban environment in peace and war. Kross’ prose is rooted in a detailed knowledge of archive materials, a nuanced sense of history and an experienced familiarity with humanity. His style is self-centred, vivid and dynamic, the settings are colourful and detailed, the plots are psychologically tense, the sentence structure is baroque and enjoying its role as a storyteller.

Biographical novels also include Kolmandad mäed (‘The Third Mountains’, 1975), about the Tsar’s court painter Johann Köler; Taevakivi (‘The Rock from the Sky’, 1975), about the imaginary relationship between the early Estonian literary figures Otto Wilhelm Masing and Kristjan Jaak Peterson; Professor Martensi ärasõit (‘Professor Martens’ Departure’, 1984; Smuul Prize 1984), about the researches of the Tsarist-period diplomat and lawyer Friedrich Martens, and Vastutuulelaev (‘Sailing Against the Wind’, 1987), on the self-realization of the stellar-optical scientist Bernhard Schmidt from the island of Naissaar at the time of the brown plague in Germany. Rakvere romaan (‘A Novel of Rakvere’, 1982) deals with the struggle of the town of Rakvere with the landowners for the town’s independence in the 18th century. The biographical novel Keisri hull (‘The Czar’s Madman’, 1978; Smuul Prize 1979, USSR Trade Unions’ prize 1989) has as its central character Timotheus von Bock, a Baltic German nobleman who is uncompromising in his honesty, and does not yield even in a fight with the Tsar of Russia himself; the narrator of the work is Jakob, the brother of the Estonian wife of the repressed hero. The life and execution of Jüri Vilms, one of the founders of the Estonian Republic, is told in the novel Tabamatus (‘Inviolability’, 1993); the attenuation of a gifted person’s self-actualization in wartime and post-war Estonia is depicted in the novel Paigallend (‘Treading Air’, 1998, Baltic Assembly Prize 1999). The moral and commercial reawakening of newly independent Estonia is portrayed in the erotically charged novel Tahtamaa (2001).

Kross used autobiographical material in the short-story collections Kajalood (‘Echo-sounder’, 1980), Ülesõidukohad (‘Crossing-places’, 1981), Silmade avamise päev (‘The Day His Eyes Are Opened’, 1988) and Järelehüüd (‘Obituary’, 1994; Tuglas Prize for the short story Vürst (‘The Prince’) in 1995) as well as the novel Wikmani poisid (‘The Wikman Boys’, 1988), which depicts the excitement of school life in an elite secondary school in pre-war Tallinn. Memoirs are also the stuff of the novels Mesmeri ring (‘Mesmer’s Circle’, 1995), whose activity occurs before and during the war, and Väljakaevamised (‘Excavations’, 1990; first publication in Finnish, translated by J. Vanhanen, with the title Syvyydestä), relating the return of Estonians from imprisonment and resettlement in Siberia after Stalin’s death, and their reacclimatization with ordinary life.

Medieval Tallinn is portrayed in the juvenile story Mardileib (‘Martinmas Bread’, 1973), whose subject is the invention of marzipan. Kross also wrote a historical play, Doktor Karelli raske öö (‘Doctor Karell’s Difficult Night) about the life of the Russian Tsar’s Estonian physician (1989, staged at the National Theatre of Finland in 1991 and the Estonian Drama Theatre in 1994). His historical prose has been much dramatized, partly with the author’s collaboration (‘The Elevation of Michelson’, ‘An Hour on a Revolving Chair’, ‘The Rock from the Sky’, ‘The Czar’s Madman’, ‘A Novel of Rakvere’). A television film based on ‘Between Three Plagues’ was made in 1970. He also wrote a radio play, Narr laps (‘Clown Child’, 1964, with E. Niit), the text of E. Tamberg’s  Kuupaisteoratoorium (‘Moonlight Oratorio’) and the libretto of the opera Cyrano de Bergerac, as well as the libretti of E. Tubin’s operetta Barbara von Tisenhusen and of Reigi õpetaja (‘The Minister of Reigi’), based on the work of Aino Kallas. With E. Niit he published the Mediterranean travel book Muld ja marmor (‘Soil and Marble’, 1968). His critical and cultural writings have appeared in six volumes under the title Vahelugemised (‘Between Readings’, 1968, 1976, 1983, 1990, 1995; Smuul Prize for vol. 3).

Kross translated from Russian, Emglish, French, Swedish, German, Finnish and Hungarian, mainly verse (H. Heine, J. Becher, S. Yesenin, A. Prokofiev, D. Samoylov, A. Turtiainen); he also translated Shakespeare’s Othello, Macbeth, Pericles and The Tempest. Works by P.J. Beranger, B. Brecht, L. Carroll, E. Diktonius, P. Eluard, A. Griboyedov, R. Hochhuth, I. Madách, K. Ristikivi, R. Rolland, E. Rostand, S. Zweig and K. Chukovsky have appeared in print.  His own works have been translated into more than a score of languages.

At the end of his creative career the author published two volumes of memoirs, Kallid kaasteelised (‘Dear Fellow Travellers’, 2003, 2008). Posthumously there appeared a film portraying his productive life, Söerikastaja (‘The Coal Enricher’, 2009, director P. Simm, script by J. Kross). Since 2010 the Jaan Kross Foundation has awarded the Jaan Kross Literary Prize.  

Among numerous prizes and honourary titles Jaan Kross has been awarded the following:
– Merited Writer of the ESSR – in 1971  
– The Tuglas Short Story Prize – in 1971, 1972, 1990, and 1995.  
– The annual Juhan Smuul Literary Prize – in 1972, 1973, 1979, and 1984.
– Estonian SSR State Prize – in 1977.  
– People’s Writer of the ESSR – in 1985.  
– Virumaa Literary Prize – in 1988, 1993, 1996, 1998, and 2003.
– Prize of the trade unions of the USSR – in 1989.
– Honorary Doctor of the University of Tartu – 1989.
– Honorary Doctor of the University of Helsinki – in 1990.
– Amnesty International Golden Flame Prize – in 1990.  
– Honorary member of the Union of Finnish Writers.
– Order of the National Coat of Arms of Estonia, I Class – in 1996.  
– Herder Prize – in 1997.
– The Cultural Endowment Annual Award for Literature – in 1998.  
– Eeva Joenpelto Prize – in 1998.
– Tallinn Coat of Arms Badge – in 1998.  
– Baltic Assembly Prize for Literature – in 1999.
– Estonian National Culture Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award – in 2004.
– Estonian National Culture Award – in 2006.
– The European of the Year Award by European Movement Estonia – in 2006.
– Hungarian Service Cross – in 1993.
– German Distinguished Service Cross – 1995.
– Finnish Loviisa Forum Prize – in 1996.
– Badge of honour of the French Legion of Honour – in 2001.
– Commander of the Order of the Lion of Finland – in 2003.

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

Books in Estonian

Kolme katku vahel. Balthasar Russowi romaan:
I osa: Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1970, 270 lk. [
Järgnevad trükid: 1974, 1985, 1987, 1997, 2008, 2020.]
II osa: Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1972, 204 lk. [Järgnevad trükid: 1974, 1985, 1987, 1997, 2008, 2020.]
III osa: Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1977, 371 lk. [Järgnevad trükid: 1985, 1989 (osaliselt), 1998, 2008, 2020.]
IV osa: Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1980, 429 lk. [Järgnevad trükid: 1985, 1989, 2008, 2020.]

Keisri hull. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1978, 350 lk. [Järgnevad trükid: 1995, 1997, 1999, 2008, 2010, 2013, 2017 (epub).]
Rakvere romaan. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1982, 303 lk.
Professor Martensi ärasõit. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1984, 247 lk.
Vastutuulelaev: Bernhard Schmidti romaan. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1987, 317 lk.
Wikmani poisid. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1988, 525 lk. [Järgnevad trükid:
1998, 2015, 2019.]
Väljakaevamised. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat: Kupar, 1990, 191 lk.
Tabamatus: Jüri Vilmsi romaan. Tallinn: Kupar, 1993, 302 lk.
Mesmeri ring: Romaniseeritud memuaarid nagu kõik memuaarid ja peaaegu iga romaan. Tallinn: Kupar, 1995, 359 lk.
Paigallend: Ullo Paeranna romaan. Tallinn: Virgela, 1998, 375 lk.
Tahtamaa. Tallinn: Eesti Keele Sihtasutus, 2001, 355 lk. [Järgnevad trükid:
2005, 2012 (epub).]

Short prose
Neli monoloogi Püha Jüri asjus. Tallinn: Perioodika (Loomingu Raamatukogu), 1970, 54 lk.
Michelsoni immatrikuleerimine: Tosin üksikkõnet trummi, väntoreli ja torupilliga tumma flöödi saatel. Tallinn: Perioodika (Loomingu Raamatukogu), 1971, 71 lk.
Klio silma all. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1972, 194 lk. [Sisu: ‘Neli monoloogi Püha Jüri asjus’, ‘Michelsoni immatrikuleerimine’, ‘Kahe kaotsiläinud paberi lugu’, ‘Pöördtoolitund’.]
Mardileib. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1973, 72 lk. [Järgnevad trükid:
1985, 2004, 2017.]
Kolmandad mäed. Tallinn: Kunst, 1975, 112 lk.
Taevakivi. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1975, 216 lk.
Kajalood. Tallinn: Perioodika (Loomingu Raamatukogu), 1980, 95 lk. [Sisu: ‘Marrastus’, ‘Toru’, ‘Stahli grammatika’.]
Ülesõidukohad. Väike Vipper. Tallinn: Perioodika (Loomingu Raamatukogu), 1981, 48 lk.
Silmade avamise päev. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1988, 253 lk. [Sisu: ‘Silmade avamise päev’, ‘Rist’, ‘Väike Vipper’, ‘Marrastus’, ‘Toru’, ‘Stahli grammatika’, ‘Vandenõu’.]
Järelehüüd. Tallinn: Perioodika (Loomingu Raamatukogu), 1994, 79 lk. [Sisu: ‘1941’, ‘Järelhüüd Kuusiku peremehele’, ‘Vürst’.]

Jaan Krossi ütlemisi. Väitevirmalisi maast ja ilmast, Koostanud Mall Jõgi. Tallinn: Tammerraamat, 2020, 135 lk.

Söerikastaja. Tallinn: Eesti Riiklik Kirjastus, 1958, 120 lk.
Tuule-Juku: Üle 16. a. vanustele keelatud. Tallinn: Ajalehtede-Ajakirjade Kirjastus (Loomingu Raamatukogu), 1963, 55 lk.
Kivist viiulid. Tallinn: Eesti Riiklik Kirjastus, 1964, 112 lk.
Lauljad laevavööridel. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1966, 116 lk.
Vihm teeb toredaid asju. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1969, 96 lk.
Voog ja kolmpii. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1971, 375 lk.

Jaan Kross, David Samoilov, Mu sõbra avatud akna all = В окно моего друга. Üllitise kuraator: Irina Belobrovtseva; eessõnad: Märt Väljataga, Irina Belobrovtseva. Tallinn: D. Samoilovi Eesti Ühing, Tallinna Ülikool, Avenarius, 2015, 75+81 lk. [Tirelraamat. Luuletused ja tõlked.]
Maailma avastamine. Tallinn: Eesti Keele Sihtasutus, 2020, 39 lk.

Tiit Pagu. Värssromaan. Trükki toimetanud ja saatesõna: Jaan Undusk. Tallinn: Kultuurileht (Loomingu Raamatukogu), 2020, 163 lk. [Epub: 2020.]

Doktor Karelli raske öö. Vend Enrico ja tema piiskop: Näidendid. Tallinn: Perioodika (Loomingu Raamatukogu), 2000, 112 lk.

Essays and articles
Alma Vaarman, Jaan Kross. Tallinna proletaarse teatri ajaloost. I. Tallinn: Eesti NSV Teatriühing, 1957, 53 lk.
Vahelugemised. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1968, 208 lk.
Vahelugemised. 2. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1976, 205 lk.
Vahelugemised. 3. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1982, 234 lk.
Vahelugemised. 4. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1986, 197 lk.
Vahelugemised. 5. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1990, 239 lk.
Vahelugemised. 6: (poliitilised). Hamburg: Bibliotheca Baltica, 1995, 231 lk.
Omaeluloolisus ja alltekst: 1998. aastal Tartu Ülikooli filosoofiateaduskonna vabade kunstide professorina peetud loengud. Tallinn: Eesti Keele Sihtasutus, 2003, 226 lk.

Kallid kaasteelised. Tallinn: Eesti Keele Sihtasutus, 2003, 718 lk. [Järgnevad trükid: 2005, 2008, 2010.]
Kallid kaasteelised. II. Tallinn: Eesti Keele Sihtasutus, 2008, 590 lk.

Ellen Niit, Jaan Kross. Muld ja marmor: Möödasõitnu meenutusi. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1968, 200 lk. [Türgist, Egiptusest ja Kreekast.]

Collected works
Kogutud teosed, 1. köide: Kolme katku vahel. Balthasar Russowi romaan. I ja II osa. Eessõna: Ülo Tedre. Tallinn: Virgela, 1997, 500 lk.
Kogutud teosed, 2. köide: Kolme katku vahel. Balthasar Russowi romaan. III osa. Eessõna: Ülo Tedre. Tallinn: Virgela, 1998, 395 lk.
Kogutud teosed, 3. köide: Kolme katku vahel. Balthasar Russowi romaan. IV osa. Järelsõna: Janika Kronberg. Tallinn: Virgela, 1998, 459 lk.
Kogutud teosed, 4. köide: Taevakivi; Kolmandad mäed; Kahe kaotsiläinud paberi lugu; Pöördtoolitund. Tallinn: Virgela, 1999, 339 lk.
Kogutud teosed, 5. köide: Keisri hull. Tallinn: Virgela, 1999, 393 lk.
Kogutud teosed, 6. köide: Rakvere romaan. Tallinn: Virgela, 1999, 381 lk.
Kogutud teosed, 7. köide: Professor Martensi ärasõit. Järelsõna: Janika Kronberg. Tallinn: Virgela; Eesti Keele Sihtasutus, 2002, 326 lk.
Kogutud teosed, 8. köide: Vastutuulelaev: Bernhard Schmidti romaan. Tallinn: Eesti Keele Sihtasutus, 2002, 389 lk.
Kogutud teosed, 9. köide: Wikmani poisid. Tallinn: Virgela, 1998, 530 lk.
Kogutud teosed, 10. köide: Väljakaevamised. Tallinn: Eesti Keele Sihtasutus, 2003, 248 lk.
Kogutud teosed, 11. köide: Tabamatus: Jüri Vilmsi romaan. Tallinn: Eesti Keele Sihtasutus, 2003, 341 lk.
Kogutud teosed, 12. köide: Mesmeri ring: romaniseeritud memuaarid nagu kõik memuaarid ja peaaegu iga romaan. Tallinn: Virgela; Eesti Keele Sihtasutus, 2003, 455 lk.
Kogutud teosed, 13. köide: Paigallend: Ullo Paeranna romaan. Järelsõna: Toomas Haug. Tallinn: Virgela; Eesti Keele Sihtasutus, 2002, 384 lk.
Kogutud teosed, 14. köide:  Tahtamaa. Tallinn: Virgela; Eesti Keele Sihtasutus, 2005, 357 lk.
Kogutud teosed, 15. köide: Novellid. I. Tallinn: Virgela; Eesti Keele Sihtasutus, 2004, 394 lk. [Sisu: ‘Neli monoloogi Püha Jüri asjus’, ‘Michelsoni immatrikuleerimine’, ‘Rist’, ‘Väike Vipper’, ‘Marrastus’, ‘Toru’, ‘Stahli grammatika’, ‘Vandenõu’, ‘Silmade avamise päev’.]
Kogutud teosed, 16. köide:  Novellid. II. Tallinn: Virgela; Eesti Keele Sihtasutus, 2004, 413 lk. [Sisu: ‘1941’, ‘Tuhatoos’, ‘Onu’, ‘Halleluuja’, ‘Minu onupoja jutustus’, ‘Eesti iseloom’, ‘Järelehüüd Kuusiku peremehele’, ‘Vürst’, ‘Põgenemine’, ‘Süit kolmele klaverile või ehk siiski ainult kahele’, ‘Motacilla’, ‘Pulmareis’, ‘Morse’, ‘Eksam’.]
Kogutud teosed, 17. köide: Luule. Järelsõna: Märt Väljataga. Tallinn: Virgela; Eesti Keele Sihtasutus, 2005, 573 lk.
Kogutud teosed, 18. köide: Draama. Järelsõna: Piret Kruuspere. Tallinn: Virgela; Eesti Keele Sihtasutus, 2005, 366 lk. [Sisu: Jaan Kross, Ellen Niit, ‘Narr laps’; ‘Olematu Odysseus: nukunäidend täiskasvanuile. 3 vaatust proloogiga’; ‘Uhkus ja alandlikkus: näidend 3 vaatuses romaani “Kolme katku vahel” neljanda köite teise raamatu ainetel’; ‘Keisri hull: näidend kolmes vaatuses proloogi ja kolme epiloogiga samanimelise romaani aineil’; ‘Doktor Karelli raske öö: ajalooline näidend’; ‘Vend Enrico ja tema piiskop: näidend. Ühtedele farss, teistele draama nagu alati’.
Kogutud teosed, 19. köide:  Ellen Niit, Jaan Kross, Muld ja marmor: möödasõitnu meenutusi. Tallinn: Virgela; Eesti Keele Sihtasutus, 2006, 251 lk.

About Jaan Kross
Metamorfiline Kross: Sissevaateid Jaan Krossi loomingusse. Koostanud Eneken Laanes. Tallinn: Underi ja Tuglase Kirjastuskeskus, 2005, 262 lk.
Jaan Kross: Bibliograafia 1997–2005. Koostajad Vaime Kabur, Tiina Ritson. Tallinn: Eesti Rahvusraamatukogu, 2006, 207 lk. [Kättesaadav: http://www.digar.ee/arhiiv/nlib-digar:1228.]
Juhani Salokannel, Jaan Kross. Soome keelest tõlkinud Piret Saluri. Tallinn: Eesti Keele Sihtasutus, 2009, 542 lk. [Originaal: Juhani Salokannel, Sivistystahto: Jaan Kross, hänen teoksensa ja virolaisuus, Helsinki: WSOY, 2008, 506 lk.]