Albert Kivikas

Novels Albert Kivikas

Short stories

About Albert Kivikas

Albert Kivikas (18./6. I 1898 – 19. V 1978) was an Estonian author, prose writer and translator. His most important work, the realist historical novel Nimed marmortahvlil (‘Names on a Marble Slab’), has become one of the core texts of Estonian literature, amplifying national and anti-war attitudes.
He was born in the town of Suure-Jaani in Taevere parish in Viljandi county, the son of a farmhand. He passed his childhood on the estate of Olustvere. From 1907 to 1908 he attended the local village school, and from 1909 to 1913 at Vastsemõisa parish school in the village of Kildu. He continued his education from 1914 to 1916 at Andres Kamsen’s business school in Viljandi and from 1916 to 1919 at the Tartu Secondary School of Business. When the War of Independence broke out, he joined the Viljandi schoolteachers’ battalion as a volunteer and served in an area from the mouth of the Emajõgi river along the eastern shore of Võrtsjärv lake as far as Pikasilla, and onward to Valga. In 1920 he began his studies at the University of Tartu, specialising in literature and history. In 1922 he broke off his studies in Tartu and moved to Berlin to edit the journals Aeg and Odamees. In 1923 he returned to Tartu as a freelance writer, concentrating in his creative writing on short stories and novels. Moving to Tallinn, he worked in the editorial offices of several journals in the nineteen-thirties. From 1935 to 1938 he was a dramaturge at the Estonian Drama Theatre and from 1938 to 1940 at the Estonia Theatre. During the German occupation, from 1941 to 1944, he edited the journal Eesti Sõna and was the chairman of the Estonian Writers’ Union. In spring 1944 he moved with his family to live in Helsinki; in the autumn of 1944 he was forced to flee to Sweden. He worked as a road-mender, a peat-cutter, in a textile factory, and later he was an archivist. He died at Lund, but he was reinterred in 1990 at the Metsakalmistu cemetery in Tallinn.
Kivikas began his literary activity in his schooldays, making his debut with poetry in magazines. His first realistic collection of stories of village life, Sookaelad (‘Swamp Paths’ 1919) appeared under the pseudonym Mart Karus. His revised view of the world was expressed in futuristic verses in the Siuru period, co-written with Erni Hiir, in the brochure Ohverdet konn (‘The Sacrificed Frog’ 1919) and Expressionistic short stories in the collection Lendavad sead (‘Flying Pigs’, 1919), which was printed on sheets of beer-bottle labels. Expressionist rhetoric was displayed in the long prose-poem Mina (‘I’, 1920) and the protest-minded manifesto Maha lüüriline šokolaad (‘Down with Lyrical Chocolate’, 1920). The work of the young Kivikas shocked the public with its extravagant visions of wartime resignation and senseless destruction. His texts, full of rich imagery, with their shock effects, ridiculed the remote subjectivism of the Siuru period.
As an experienced and well-known Futurist, Kivikas continued on the wave of innovative realistic prose. The trilogy of novels Jüripäev (‘St. George’s Day’, 1921; the completely revised version carried the title Murrang [‘Breakthrough’], 1925), Jaanipäev (‘St. John’s Day’, 1924) and Mihklipäev (‘St. Michael’s Day’, 1924) raised the problems of social injustice and the neglect of business morality in post-war society. Kivikas continued to deal with rural life later in the novel Karuskose (1943) which is a peasant novel in content and style, and the short-story collection Tulililled (‘Buttercups’, 1957), in which stories inspired by his home village expose the relationships and conflicts in rural society.
The basic theme of Kivikas’ work came to be war and the sense of the drama of life arising from it. The short-story collection Verimust (‘Blood-black’, 1920), whose subject is the War of Independence, shows the conditions of war in which a person loses his name and his character, changing, by fulfilling commands or for self-defence, into a killing machine. Ristimine tulega (‘Baptism of Fire’, 1923) is the first novel on the subject of the War of Independence, using the motif of brothers in combat on opposing sides. Sharp social criticism and attitudes caused by conflict world-views are provided by Punane ja valge (‘Red and White’, 1927), a collection of stories on war and revolution whose psychological tension and compositional density convey the drama of human alienation. The theme running through his works is the foundation of the Republic of Estonia, the fight on the battlefield for its liberation and the consequent building of an independent state.
The tetralogy Nimed marmortahvlil (‘Names on a Marble Slab’, I – 1936, II – 1948, III – 1951, IV – 1954) is one of the key works of Estonian war literature, the first volume being awarded the literature prize of the Estonian head of state Konstantin Päts in 1937. This realistic novel, based on autobiographical material, tells of the War of Liberation and the years following it (1919-1924), through the eyes of the main character, Henn Ahas, presenting the events with historical accuracy and convincing psychology. The novel is a summary of one generation’s battle of social and cultural ideas, a unique reflection of the era in Estonian prose. The work has been repeatedly dramatized and staged in theatres; in 2002 a film of the same name was made (translated into English as ‘Names in Marble’), scripted and directed by Elmo Nüganen. Indirectly linked with this series of novels is Kivikas’ last novel, Kodukäija (‘The Spectre’, 1963), which received great political and public notice; its main character, Ahasveerus, is recognisably a version of Henn Ahas.
A. O. (Translated by C. M.)

Books in Estonian


Jüripäev. Tartu: Odamees, 1921, 264 lk.
Jaanipäev. Tartu: Postimees, 1924, 351 lk.
Mihklipäev. Tallinn: Eesti Kirjastus-Ühisus, 1924, 235 lk.
Murrang. Tartu: Odamees, 1925, 185 lk. [Järgnev trükk: Tallinn, Eesti Päevaleht, 2009, 207 lk.]
Ristimine tulega. Tartu. Odamees, 1923, 175 lk.
Vekslivõltsija. Ühe boheemlase pihtimus. Tartu: Loodus, 1931, 198 lk.
Nimed marmortahvlil. I. Tartu: Postimees, 1936, 539 lk. [Järgnevad trükid: Tallinn: Eesti Kirjastus, 1942, 357 lk (ümbertöötatud trükk); Valdstena: Orto, 1947, 344 lk (ümbertöötatud trükk); Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1991, 351 lk; ‘Nimed marmortahvlil’ I-II, Tallinn: Leksiko, 2003, 445 lk; Madrid: Mediasat Group 2005, 312 lk; Tallinn: Critera VMG, 2015, 351 lk.]
Nimed marmortahvlil. II. Vadstena: Orto, 1948, 256 lk. [Järgnevad trükid:
Tallinn: Olion, 2000, 262 lk; ‘Nimed marmortahvlil’ I-II, Tallinn: Leksiko, 2003, 445 lk.]
Nimed marmortahvlil. III. Lund: Eesti Kirjanike Kooperatiiv, 1951, 240 lk. [Järgnev trükk: Tallinn: Olion, 2001, 294 lk.]
Nimed marmortahvlil. IV. Lund: Eesti Kirjanike Kooperatiiv, 1954, 336 lk. [Järgnev trükk: Tallinn: Olion, 2002, 270 lk.]

Karuskose. Tallinn: Eesti Kirjandus, 1943, 240 lk. [Järgnev trükk: Tallinn: Roto, 1991, 158 lk.]
Kodukäija. Lund, 1963, 308 lk. [Järgnev trükk: Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 2000, 262 lk.]

Short stories
Mart Karus, Sookaelad: viis novelli. Tartu: Odamees, 1919, 132 lk. [Järgnevad trükid: Tallinn: Eesti Kirjastus-Ühisus, 1924, 195 lk; Tallinn: Eesti Kirjastus-Ühisus, 1927, 179 lk; Lund: Eesti Kirjanike Kooperatiiv, 1952, 126 lk.]
Erni Hiir, Ohverdet konn. Tartu: Odamees, 1919, 8 lk.
Lendavad sead. Tartu, 1919, 22 lk.
Maha lüüriline šokolaad!. Tartu: Arlekiin, 1920, 16 lk.
Verimust. Tartu: Arlekiin, 1920, 84 lk. [Valikkogu: Lund: Eesti Kirjanike Kooperatiiv, 1968, 264 lk.]
Nõuandja: rahva muinasjutt. Tartu: Odamees, 1921, 15 lk.
Verine väits. Tartu: Odamees, 1922, 23 lk.
Lumimemm. Tartu: Odamees, 1922, 15 lk.
Miniatüürid. Tartu: Loodus, 1926, 102 lk.
Punane ja valge. Tartu: Noor-Eesti, 1927, 158 lk. [Valikkogu: Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1998, 290 lk.]
Süütu. Tartu: Odamees, 1927, 30 lk.
Tulililled. Kimp uudisjutte. Lund: Eesti Kirjanike Kooperatiiv, 1957, 299 lk.

Mina. Tartu: Arlekiin, 1920, 24 lk. [Proosapoeem.]
See on see maa. Lund: Skånska Centraltryckeriet, 1950, 94 lk.