Raimond Kaugver

Novels Raimond Kaugver

Short stories


About Raimond Kaugver


Raimond Kaugver (25. II 1926 – 24. I 1992) was a prose author and playwright, one of the most popular Estonian writers during the Soviet era.

Kaugver was born and educated in Rakvere. He escaped in 1943 to Finland and joined the Finnish army’s 200th infantry regiment (the ‘Finnish boys’). In 1944 he returned to Estonia. He spent the years 1945 to 1950 as a political prisoner at Vorkuta in Siberia. After returning to Estonia he worked in various posts, among others as a tram driver in Tallinn. From 1961 he was a professional writer in Tallinn. He joined the Writers’ Union in 1964. For his novel Vana mees tahab koju (‘An Old Man Wants to Go Home’, 1983) he won the A.H. Tammsaare Kolkhoz prize (1984), and for the short story Elupäästja (‘The Rescuer’, 1988), the F. Tuglas short story prize (1989). He died in Tallinn, and is buried in the Tallinna Metsakalmistu (Forest Cemetery).

The author who was to become a best-seller made his literary debut with the short story Doktor Kollom (Looming, 1956), with which he won second prize in the Looming short story competition. He took part in the activities of the Tallinn NAK (Young Authors’ Association). Some of the novels he wrote in the nineteen-fifties were only able to appear after the fall of Soviet power, such as Laevad kaotavad tüüri (‘Ships Lose Their Rudders’, 1993), based around an artist and taking an anti-Soviet stance, and Põhjavalgus (‘Northern Light’, 2010), on the subject of labour camps. The novel Võõra mõõga teenistuses (‘In Service to a Foreign Sword’, 2011), which deals with the events and choices of 1944, was noted as outstanding in a 1959 novel competition, but even after ‘corrections’, it remained unpublished.

His first novels published in the Soviet period are predominantly concerned with workers: the pair of novels Keskpäevavalgus (‘Midday Light’, 1962) and Igapäevane leib (‘Daily Bread’, 1964) dealt with the lives of tram trust employees, and Seitsmendas läänes (‘In the Seventh West’, 1965) those of oil-shale miners. A deeper depiction of a human being was realised in the novel Nelikümmend küünalt (‘Forty Candles’, 1966), which is built up from the main character’s confessional retrospection on his life on his fortieth birthday. It is the story of one man’s development and choices, one who has been through the German army, volunteered with the ‘Finnish Boys’ and later been in a Soviet prison camp. It is characteristic of Kaugver to use personal material and experience in his works. This was the first of Kaugver’s novels to win wider acclaim.

In his later novels Kaugver concentrated mainly on various issues in contemporary life; for example he tackles the effects of alcoholism in Jumalat ei ole kodus (‘God Is Not at Home’, 1971); problems of school life in Disko (‘Disco’, 1982); youth violence in Meie pole süüdi (‘We’re Not to Blame’, 1984). The last of these was made into a feature film (1986). One of Kaugver’s most influential novels, Vana mees tahab koju, deals with differences of world outlook between generations, which leave a former miner legless and homeless at the end of his life. A film of the same name was also based on this tragic story in 1991 (dir. Tõnis Kask). Relations between parents and children are under scrutiny in the novel “Kas ema südant tunned sa?” (‘”Do You Know Your Mother’s Heart?”‘ 1988), of which 115,000 copies were printed – a record for one printing of a work by an Estonian author, which will probably never be equalled in the Estonian language.

In the second half of the nineteen-eighties Kaugver tackled previously suppressed themes, such as the problem of the deportations in the novel Postuumselt rehabiliteeritud (‘Posthumously Rehabilitated’, 1990) and the collection of stories about the prison camps, Kirjad laagrist (‘Letters from the Camp’, 1989). Kaugver’s short prose, mainly of a classical structure, considering diverse ethical questions in short story form, has also appeared in the collections 60 minutit (’60 minutes’, 1968), Tuuleveskid (‘Windmills’, 1977) and Oh mis kena maailm (‘Oh What a Lovely World’, 1983).

Apart from prose, he wrote a number of plays, which have also been staged outside Estonia. Wider attention has been paid to the Oma saar (‘Home Island’), a play about mining (staged 1970, published in the collection Külalisteraamat (‘Visitors’ Book’, 1977)); the most widely appreciated is Rong väljub hommikul (‘The Train Leaves in the Morning’), with its Symbolist undertone, dealing with the relationship between dreams and reality (staged 1971, published in the collection Valik näidendeid (‘Selected Plays’, 1973)). As with his prose, in some of his plays he deals with family relationships and social problems. The theme of the prison camps, taken up in his novels and short prose, is also considered in the play Saturnuse lapsed (‘Children of Saturn’, staged 1989).

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

Books in Estonian

Keskpäevavalgus. Tallinn: Eesti Riiklik Kirjastus, 1962, 251 lk.
Igapäevane leib. Tallinn: Eesti Riiklik Kirjastus, 1964, 208 lk.
Seitsmendas läänes. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1965, 267 lk.
Nelikümmend küünalt. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1966, 247 lk. [Järgnevad trükid: 1976, 1995, 2008.]
Jumalat ei ole kodus. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1971, 200 lk [2. tr 1979.]
Ja kõik on kuhugi teel. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1974, 294 lk.
Suurte arvude seadus. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1978, 299 lk.
Disko. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1982, 280 lk. [2. tr 1995.]
Vana mees tahab koju. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1983, 272 lk. [Järgnevad trükid: 1985, 2002.]
Meie pole süüdi. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1984, 239 lk. [2. tr 1996.]
Pariisi lõbusad naised. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1985, 239 lk. [Järgnevad trükid: 2002, 2016.]
Tee isa juurde. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1987, 270 lk.
“Kas ema südant tunned sa?”. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1988, 254 lk.
Laev keset rägastikku. Tallinn: Kupar, 1990, 288 lk.
Postuumselt rehabiliteeritud. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1990, 166 lk.
Peotäis tolmu. Tallinn: Kupar, 1992, 204 lk.
Laevad kaotavad tüüri. Tallinn: Kupar, 1993, 126 lk.
Sillad põlevad. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 2007, 110 lk.
Põhjavalgus. Tallinn: Pegasus, 2010, 510 lk.
Võõra mõõga teenistuses. Tallinn: Pegasus, 2011, 284 lk.
Viimse meheni. Kooliromaan. Muraste: Randvelt Kirjastus, 2017, 159 lk.

60 minutit. Lühiproosat 1956-1966. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1968, 196 lk.
Tuuleveskid. Jutustusi. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1974, 184 lk.
Keerdtrepp. Reportaaž. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1976, 159 lk.
Külalisteraamat. Jutustusi. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1977, 222 lk.
Oh mis kena maailm. Lugusid inimestest ja (teistest) loomadest. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1983, 288 lk.
Kirjad laagrist. Jutustused. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1989, 172 lk.

Radio plays
Pilk nähtamatusse. Valimik kuuldemänge. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1969, 342 lk.