Ardi Liives (until 1939 Liinev, 31. VIII 1929 – 9. XII 1992) was a playwright and prose writer.
He was born and studied in Tallinn and at the Tartu State University, where he graduated in law. From 1953 to 1962 he worked in the editorial office of the newspaper Õhtuleht, and later became a professional writer in Tallinn. He was a member of the Writers’ Union from 1958, and of the Estonian Theatre Association from 1954 to 1973. He died in Tallinn, and is buried in Liiva cemetery.
Liives, who started writing plays early, merited prominence even with his first works: Uus elu ('New Life'), in the 1946 comedy play-writing competition, and Aastatepikkune tee ('The Years-long Road', 1949) in the 1947 youth play-writing contest. Sõber Erk ('Friend Erk') went into print in 1949. Greater attention was garnered by the play Varastatud usaldus (Mäng armastusega) ['Stolen Confidence. (The Game of Love)', 1954], which deals with students’ relationships and ethical pressures, and was followed by the drama Linnud lahkuvad pesast ('Birds Leaving the Nest', 1956), which considers family problems. A new qualitative breakthrough was marked by the psychological drama Uusaasta öö ('New Year’s Eve', 1958), which, by placing the decline of a violinist at its centre, brings humanism to the foreground – one of the themes that runs through Liives’ work, along with questions of ethical pressure. One of the best pieces is the tragedy Sinine rakett ('The Blue Rocket', 1959), set in the riots of December 1924 (the failed coup of bolsheviks in Estonia), which won third prize in the drama competition of 1958; another is Mürgi perenaine ('Mistress of Mürgi Farm', 1979), which penetrates deeper into a woman’s mental life.
In the sixties Liives rose to become one of the leading Estonian playwrights. Siinpool horisonti ('This Side of the Horizon', 1961) deals with relations between a collective and its management; the satirical Millest vaikis prohvet ('Of Which the Prophet Was Silent', 1962) ponders the era of the Stalin personality cult using Biblical motifs. The possibility of speaking the truth, and the various shortcomings in living conditions, are treated in one of Liives’ best and most successful works, the comedy Viini postmark ('Stamp from Vienna', 1964). The driving force for the events in the play is a wager by the main character, Martin Roll – to speak only the truth for one day. The so-called ‘little man’, who has been on the path of compromise through his life, reconsiders himself and those around him. A successful feature film based on the play, one of the classics of Estonian cinema, was made in 1967 (directed by Veljo Käsper). Bureaucracy and provincialism are flayed in the comedy Monolisk ehk Suhtugem küsimusse tõsiselt ('Monolisk, or Let’s Take the Question Seriously', 1969), at the centre of which is a man who is creating a monument to himself in the central square of a small town. In addition to the comedies, for which Liives is most widely known, he wrote psychological dramas, such as Infarkt ('Heart Attack', 1973), which deals with the subject of humaneness.
In 1980 he was awarded the annual Juhan Smuul literature prize for the collections Lehti ühelt puult. Valid draamasid and Lehti teiselt puult. Valik komöödiaid ('Leaves from One Tree. Selected Dramas'; and 'Leaves from Another Tree. Selected Comedies', both 1970).
Liives was one of the major authors of radio plays in Estonia, who skilfully used the opportunities offered by radio. His radio plays are collected in Pilk nähtamatusse ('A Glimpse of the Invisible', 1969) and Täna raadioteatris ('Today in the Radio Theatre', 1984). Kuninganna Maudi maa ('Queen Maud Land'), concentrating on the relationship of two young people on a lonely island, was produced on television (1980). Kuninganna Maudi maa, as well as Neljas, lõpetamata portree ('The Fourth, Unfinished Portrait'), Jälg ja vari ('Trace and Shadow') and Hõbepaber ('Silver Paper') have won various awards, including international ones.
Narrative prose makes up the bulk of his later work. Unlike the plays, which are mostly set in an urban environment, in his stories Liives often depicts rural and coastal life, such as Nullpäev ja tormipüha ('Day Zero and the Storm Holidays', 1976), Ahvitapja ja heategija ('The Monkey-killer and the Benefactor', 1979). Coastal life on Saaremaa and ethical conflicts come to the fore in the novel Vastuarmastus ('Reciprocal Love', I 1982, II 1986), the basis of which is the play Tormihoiatus ('Storm Warning', 1974). A contemporary village is the setting of the action in the novel Aken vastu päikest ('Window Toward the Sun', 1988). The centre of attention in the novel Passioon ('Passion', 1986) is a young woman in a German refugee camp.
A. K. (Translated by C. M.)
Books in Estonian
Retro. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1981, 240 lk.
Vastuarmastus. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1982, 190 lk.
Vastuarmastus. 2. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1986, 229 lk.
Passioon. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1986, 253 lk.
Aken vastu päikest. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1988, 239 lk.
Nullpäev ja tormipüha: kaks juttu. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1976, 140 lk.
Ahvitapja ja heategija: kaks juttu. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1979, 128 lk.
Sõber Erk: noorsoonäidend kahes vaatuses. Tallinn: Ajalehtede Kirjastus, 1949, 16 lk.
Varastatud usaldus. (Mäng armastusega). Tallinn: Eesti Ajalehtede-Ajakirjade Kirjastus, 1954, 15 lk.
Linnud lahkuvad pesast. Tallinn: Eesti Riiklik Kirjastus, 1956, 67 lk.
Robert Suur. Tallinn: Eesti Riiklik Kirjastus, 1957, 79 lk. [2. trükk: 1979.]
Sinine rakett. Tallinn: Eesti Riiklik Kirjastus, 1959, 55 lk.
Siinpool horisonti. Tallinn: Eesti Riiklik Kirjastus, 1962, 96 lk. [2. trükk: 1989.]
Viini postmark. Tallinn: Eesti Riiklik Kirjastus, 1964, 75 lk. [2. trükk: 1979.]
Poolteist päeva muret. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1967, 78 lk.
Monolisk, ehk, Suhtugem küsimusse tõsiselt. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1969, 83 lk. [2. trükk 1979.]
Madalrõhkkond. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1971, 56 lk. [2. trükk: 1989.]
Uusaastaöö. Tallinn: Eesti Riiklik Kirjastus, 1958, 59 lk. [Järgmised trükid: 1971, 1979.]
Lehti ühelt puult: valik draamasid. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1979, 288 lk.
Lehti teiselt puult: valik komöödiaid. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1979, 304 lk.
Madalrõhkkond: valik näidendeid. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1989, 406 lk.
Pilk nähtamatusse: valimik kuuldemänge. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1969, 342 lk.
Täna raadioteatris: kuulemängud. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1984, 171 lk.
About Ardi Liives
Vaapo Vaher, Imelaps, kellest ei saanud geeniust. Esseistlik monograafia Ardi Liivesest. Tallinn: Eesti Keele Sihtasutus, 2007, 463 lk.