Raimond Kolk

Poems Raimond Kolk

About Raimond Kolk

Raimond Kolk (8. II 1924 – 3. XI 1992) was a poet, prose-writer and critic.

Kolk was born in Võrumaa county, the son of the Saru parish clerk. He attended Saru primary school, from 1937 to 1942 Valga school of science and Valga co-educational gymnasium and from 1942 to 1943 Tartu Teachers’ Seminary. In 1943 he worked as a primary school teacher at Kuldre in Võrumaa; in January 1944 he fled to Finland from the German mobilization, and was in training in the Estonian infantry regiment there, and on the Karelian front. In September 1944 he moved to Sweden, where he initially worked in forestry, subsequently in a stocking factory, later in a spinning mill in Gothenburg and in many other jobs. From 1958 to 1963 he studied political science, national economy and statistics in the faculty of humanities at Stockholm University. He graduated as a candidate in philosophy in 1963. In 1962 he started working in the Swedish Ministry of Agriculture. From 1972 to 1989 he worked as economic director of the Swedish Food Administration in Uppsala. He died in Stockholm and was buried in Lidingö cemetery.

Kolk started writing poetry in his school years; his verses were published in Tartu in the student paper Õpilasleht in 1938, and in 1942 in Postimees; he won first prize in 1943 in the latter’s short-story competition for his story Vanas kõrtsis (‘At the Old Tavern’). Kolk’s poetry appeared in the journal of the Estonian infantry regiment in Finland Kodutee and in the almanac Eesti Looming, and in Sweden in the anthology Homse nimel (‘In the Name of Tomorrow’, 1945). In the same year Kolk joined the Tuulisui writers’ group; he became one of the champions of the radical branch of the Estonian exiles, and one of the founders of the political journal Radikaaldemokraat, set up as a counterweight to the conservatives, as well as editor of the cultural journal Sõna from 1948 to 1950. When Sõna closed in 1950, Kolk moved to collaborate on the journal Tulimuld and the newspaper Teataja, in addition to editing the political journal Side from 1956 to 1992.

His very first poetry collection, Ütsik täht (‘Lone Star’, 1946) was written in Võru dialect, which also dominates the following collection, Kõiv akna all (‘Birch Below the Window’, 1952). Kolk was further developing the traditions of Estonian dialect poetry, offering vignettes of village life in pastel tones, and meditations on life, often with an ironic point to them. Dialect recedes in the later collections Müüdud sõrmus (‘Sold Ring’, 1957) and Kiri (‘Letter’, 1977). In his last collections Kolk reflects the world more broadly, foreign motifs appear in his poems, the meditations touch upon surrounding conditions and people. These poems, too, are simple in form, sometimes humorous, but also sceptical and ironical. A survey of Kolk’s creation is provided by the comprehensive volume Võõral maal kirjutatud laulud. Luulekogumik 1940-1983 (‘Songs Written in a Foreign Land. Collected Poetry 1940-1983’, 1984) and the collection Ütsik täht (‘Lone Star’, 1989).

His first novel, Küla põleb kahest otsast (‘The Village Burns at Both Ends’, 1955) depicts Estonian students’ adaptation to Swedish conditions; a young man is forced to choose between the easy life offered by a Swedish girl and the problems posed by his Estonian girlfriend – with ironical colouring, in the finale, the author has him won over by foreign comforts. Regarded as Kolk’s best prose work is the novel Sulajää (‘Melting Ice’, 1958), which depicts the dramatic fate of a young woman in Estonia between the two world wars: dismissed from a school, the teacher, forced by the difficulties of her life, marries an old farmer, and never again returns to her intellectual values. Called the Stockholm Trilogy, the novels Et mitte kunagi võita (‘Never to Win’, 1969), Mõned päevad septembris (‘A few Days in September’, 1972), and Truudus elu vastu (‘True to Life’, 1976) portray the status of refugees; here too the protagonists have to choose between love and economic well-being; in the last of these novels the choice is also between life abroad and in the homeland. The trilogy Vallavanema pärandustomp (‘Dividing up the Council Elder’s Estate’, 1983), Elu edeneb (‘Life Goes On’, 1984) and Ajad muutuvad (‘Times Change’, 1989) portray the radical Independence War veterans’ movement and the formation of the Patriot League in the Republic of Estonia; the author depicts these political movements with humour. An introduction to Kolk’s short story writing are the collections Väikemees, miks nutad? (‘Little Man, why are you Crying?’, 1960), and Uskmatu Toomas (‘The Doubting Toomas’, 1981). The collection of short prose Lestakala otsimas ja teisi jutte (‘Searching for the Flatfish and Other Stories’, 1987) presents observations and meditations on the Võrumaa of his youth and present-day Stockholm. Kolk has also written numerous articles about Estonian literature abroad.

I. M. (Translated by C. M.)

Books in Estonian

Ütsik täht: võõral maal kirutõdu laulu. Kaas ja illustratsioonid: Harri Laks; kirjandus- ja kunstirühmitus Tuulisui. Stokholm: Eesti Raamat, 1946, 63 lk.
Kõiv akna all: teine kogu luuletusi. Lund: Eesti Kirjanike Kooperatiiv, 1952, 71 lk.
Müüdud sõrmus: kolmas kogu luuletusi. Illustreerinud O. Mikiver. Lund: Eesti Kirjanike Kooperatiiv, 1959, 63 lk.
Kiri: neljas kogu luuletusi. Lund: Eesti Kirjanike Kooperatiiv, 1977, 61 lk.
Võõral maal kirjutatud laulud: luulekogumik 1940-1983. Lund: Eesti Kirjanike Kooperatiiv, 1984, 158 lk.
Ütsik täht: võõral maal kirjutatud laulud. Kujundanud ja illustreerinud Vive Tolli. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1989, 222 lk.

Küla põleb kahest otsast. Lund: Eesti Kirjanike Kooperatiiv, 1955, 238 lk. [2. trükk: Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 2000, 173 lk.]
Sulajää. Illustreerinud V. Saul. Lund: Eesti Kirjanike Kooperatiiv, 1958, 294 lk. [2. trükk: Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 2010, 239 lk.]
Et mitte kunagi võita. Lund: Eesti Kirjanike Kooperatiiv, 1969, 245 lk.
Mõned päevad septembris: jutustus tänapäevast. Lund: Eesti Kirjanike Kooperatiiv, 1972, 219 lk.
Truudus elu vastu. Illustreerinud O. Mikiver. Lund: Eesti Kirjanike Kooperatiiv, 1976, 216 lk.
Vallavanema pärandustomp. Lund: Eesti Kirjanike Kooperatiiv, 1983, 201 lk.
Elu edeneb. Lund: Eesti Kirjanike Kooperatiiv, 1984, 189 lk.
Ajad muutuvad. Lund: Eesti Kirjanike Kooperatiiv, 1989, 174 lk.

Short prose
Vähikuningas. Kaas ja illustratsioonid: Olev Mikiver. Lund: Eesti Kirjanike Kooperatiiv, 1957, 61 lk. [Lastejutt.]
Väikemees, miks nutad?: novelle ja jutustusi. Illustreerinud T. Pors. Lund: Eesti Kirjanike Kooperatiiv, 1960, 283 lk.
Uskmatu Toomas: jutustused. Illustreerinud O. Mikiver. Lund: Eesti Kirjanike Kooperatiiv, 1981, 211 lk.
Lestakala otsimas ja teisi jutte 1981-1987. Illustreerinud O. Paju. Lund: Eesti Kirjanike Kooperatiiv, 1987, 175 lk.

August Mälk: lühimonograafia. Toimetaja Bernard Kangro. Lund: Eesti Kirjanike Kooperatiiv, 1964, 63 lk.
Tuulisui ja teised: märkmeid aastaist 1945-1950. Stokholm: Teataja, 1980, 133 lk.
Vene 1917. a. revolutsioonid ja nende peegeldusi eesti kirjanduses: ettekanne New Yorgi eesti kultuuripäevadel aprillis 1982. Stokholm: Side, 1982, 31 lk.
Võrumaalt Stokholmi; “Tuulisui” ja teised: märkmeid ja mälestusi kodumaalt ja pagulusest. Tallinn: Faatum, 1992, 157 lk.