August Mälk

Novels August Mälk

Short stories


About August Mälk

August Mälk (4. X / 21.IX 1900 – 19. XII 1987) was one of the most acclaimed prose writers among his generation of exiled Estonians.

He was born in the coastal village of Koovi in Lümanda parish in Saaremaa. He attended the local school, later Lümanda village school and Kuressaare county school. He acquired teaching qualifications by special courses and at the University of Tartu. He worked as a teacher and schoolmaster at various places on Saaremaa. He was a member of the National Assembly and its first Chamber of Deputies, and deputy chairman of the Tallinn Writers’ Society. He was a member of the Estonian Writers’ Union from 1929, and of the Estonian Playwrights’ Union from 1936. In 1944 he and his family fled to Sweden, where he worked as an archivist and librarian. He was one of the founders of the Estonian Writers’ Union Abroad and its first chairman from 1945 to 1982. He died in Stockholm, and was buried in the Woodland Cemetery there.

Mälk was an extremely productive author, publishing works of fiction in periodicals from 1919. Mälk’s debut was in the compilation of young writers Aktsioon (‘Campaign’) in 1926, where his short story about the leprosy Surnu surm (‘Death of the Dead’) was published. His first sizeable work was the summer vacation novel Kesaliblik (‘The Butterfly’, 1926), followed by the short story collection Anne-Marie (1927). Prominent among the works of his earlier period are the aforementioned ‘Surnu surm’ and the story ‘Surnud elu’ (‘Dead Life’, 1929). He gained recognition and greater attention in the mid-nineteen-thirties for his realistic depiction of life on the coast of Saaremaa. A central place in his work is held by the novels depicting a contemporary coastal village, Õitsev meri (‘Flourishing Sea’, 1935), Taeva palge all (‘Under the Beam of the Sky’, 1937), Hea sadam (‘A Good Harbour’, 1942), the short story collection Rannajutud (‘Coastal Tales’, 1936) and the play Mees merelt (‘The Man from the Sea’, 1935). The characters typical of Mälk who reside in a coastal village, and the atmosphere of a village by the seaside, with vivid details, are clearly evident in Õitsev meri; subsequent works vary greatly the motifs and subjects of this novel. There is an appreciation of the harmony of coastal life, of the quality of life with its time-worn habits and customs, and a sense of homeliness. Mälk has been called a good storyteller, who knew how to fascinate his readers with portrayals of everyday life.

Mälk was also one of the practitioners of the historical novel that rose to prominence in the nineteen-thirties; in 1934 his novel Surnud majad (‘Dead Houses’), set at the time of the Great Northern War, appeared; in 1936 came the novel of Estonian Vikings, Läänemere isandad (‘Masters of the Baltic Sea’), which tells the story of the destruction of Sigtuna by the warriors from Saaremaa in 1187. The treatment given in the work fits into a paradigm of heroicizing the past of the Estonians and promoting national pride that was very popular at the time.

Jutte lindudest (‘Stories about Birds’, 1934), written for young people, is based on the author’s observations on the island of Vilsandi.

As a playwright he achieved success with his colourful characters and folksy dialogue in the comedies Vaese mehe ututall (‘The Poor Man’s Yeanling’, 1932) and Neitsid lampidega (‘Girls with lamps’, 1933). Also popular were the coastal-themed Mees merelt (‘The Man from the Sea’) and the comedy Häda õnnega (‘Trouble with Good Luck’, 1937), which appeared under the pseudonym Juhan Kihulane; his other plays went largely unnoticed.

During the first years of exile Mälk depicted – like many other exiled writers did – the events of the Second World War and the flight into exile and adaptation to a new homeland, as in the novels Öised linnud (‘Night Birds’, 1945) and Kodumaata (‘No Homeland’, 1947). In exile Mälk’s novels become psychologically deeper, such as the major work of Mälk’s later period, the two-volume novel Tee kaevule (‘The Road to the Well’, 1952-1953), which follows the internal searchings of a school headmaster and educationist. The novel Kevadine maa (‘Land in Spring’, 1963) offers an insight into contemporary Swedish life. His last book, the short-story collection Projekt Viktoria (‘Project Viktoria’, 1978), represents a thoroughly new trend in Mälk’s work, in the genre of science fiction.

In his creative career Mälk has earned various marks of recognition, such as the Estonian President’s Third Prize for the novel Surnud majad in 1935, and Second Prize for Õitsev meri (1936), also the Third Prize of the Young Estonia publishing house for Rannajutud in 1937. He won the Bank of Estonia award for Rannajutud and Läänemere isandad in 1937, for Taeva palge all in 1938 and for Mere tuultes (‘In the Sea Winds’) in 1939. The greatest recognition during the First Republic came to Mälk in 1937 from the President-Regent (i. e. the former Head of State and the Future President Konstantin Päts), the Lagle farm near Tallinn (present-day Õismäe). In exile he won the Henrik Visnapuu Literature Prize for the novel Tee kaevule in 1953.

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

Books in Estonian

Kesaliblik. Tartu: Sõnavara, 1926, 162 lk.
Õnnepagulane. Tartu: Noor-Eesti, 1928, 246 lk.
Hukkumine. Tartu: Noor-Eesti, 1928, 526 lk.
Läbi öö. Tartu: Tapper, 1929, 402 lk.
Kivine pesa. Tallinn: Aktsioon, 1932, 280 lk. [2. trükk: 1966.] 
Üks neistsinatseist. Tallinn: Aktsioon, 1933, 215 lk.
Surnud majad. Tartu: Loodus, 1934, 223 lk. [Järgnevad trükid: 1947, 1997.]
Õitsev meri. Tartu: Noor-Eesti, 1935, 331 lk. [Järgnevad trükid: 1936, 1948, 1983, 2008.]
Läänemere isandad. Tartu: Noor-Eesti, 1936, 518 lk [Järgnevad trükid: 1951, 2000, 2008.]
Taeva palge all. Tartu: Noor-Eesti, 1937, 356 lk. [Järgnevad trükid: 1938, 1950, 1988, 2009.]
Kivid tules. Tallinn: Kultuurkoondis, 1939, 301 lk.
Hea sadam. Tallinn: Eesti Kirjastus, 1942, 337 lk.  [Järgnevad trükid: 1946, 1971, 2009.] 
Öised linnud. Vadstena: Orto, 1945, 320 lk.
Kodumaata. Vadstena: Orto, 1947, 382 lk.
Tee kaevule I. Lund: Eesti Kirjanike Kooperatiiv, 1952, 434 lk. [2. trükk: 2001.]
Tee kaevule II. Lund: Eesti Kirjanike Kooperatiiv, 1953, 384 lk. [2. trükk: 2001.]
Päike küla kohal. Lund: Eesti Kirjanike Kooperatiiv, 1957, 391 lk. [2. trükk: 1996.]
Toomas Tamm. Lund: Eesti Kirjanike Kooperatiiv, 1959, 352 lk. [2. trükk: 2000.]
Kevadine maa. Lund: Eesti Kirjanike Kooperatiiv, 1963, 327 lk. [2. trükk: 1965.]

Surnu surm. Tartu: Sõnavara, 1926, 32 lk.
Anne-Marie. Tartu: Noor-Eesti, 1927, 154 lk.
Surnud elu. Tartu: Noor-Eesti, 1929, 145 lk.
Jutte lindudest. Tallinn: EÕL noorsookirjanduse toimkond, 1934, 127 lk. [Järgnevad trükid: 1959, 1982.]
Rannajutud. Tartu: Noor-Eesti, 1936, 173 lk. [Järgnevad trükid: 1937, 1960, 1991.]
Avatud värav. Lugu minevikust. Tartu: Noor-Eesti, 1937, 141 lk.
Mere tuultes. Tartu: Noor-Eesti, 1938, 216 lk.
Kadunud päike. Jutte minevikust. Tallinn: Eesti Kirjastus, 1943, 315 lk. [2. trükk: 1970.]
Jumala tuultes. Vadstena: Orti, 1949, 317 lk.
Tuli sinu käes. Lund: Eesti Kirjanike Kooperatiiv, 1955, 327 lk.

Mere annid. Rannajutte. Lund: Eesti Kirjanike Kooperatiiv, 1960, 278 lk. [2. trükk “Rannajuttudest”, lisaks varem avaldamata loomingut samast ainevallast.]
Jumalaga, meri!. Lund: Eesti Kirjanike Kooperatiiv, 1967, 279 lk.
Projekt Victoria. Lund: Eesti Kirjanike Kooperatiiv, 1978, 240 lk. [2. trükk: 1998.]
Tere, meri!. Koostanud Aarne Vinkel. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1991, 325 lk. [Sari ‘Eesti novellivara’.]

Moodne Kain. Tallinn: Eesti Haridusliit, 1930, 123 lk.
Vaese mehe utetall. Tallinn: Eesti Haridusliit, 1932, 134 lk.
Neitsid lampidega. Tallinn: Eesti Haridusliit, 1933, 110 lk.
Isade tee. Tallinn: Eesti Haridusliit, 1934, 152 lk.
Mees merelt. Tallinn: Autorikaitse Ühing, 1935, 131 lk.
Vanakurja vokk. Tallinn: Autorikaitse Ühing, 1936, 43 lk.
Juhan Kihulane, Häda õnnega. Tallinn: Autorikaitse Ühing, 1937, 111 lk.
Sikud kaevul. Tallinn: Autorikaitse Ühing, 1938, 102 lk.

Hommikust keskpäevani. Elupilte ja mälestusi. Lund: Eesti Kirjanike Kooperatiiv, 1972, 271 lk.
Peale päevapööret. Mõtteid ja mälestusi. Lund: Eesti Kirjanike Kooperatiiv, 1976, 304 lk.

About August Mälk
Raimond Kolk, August Mälk. Lühimonograafia. Lund: Eesti Kirjanike Kooperatiiv, 1964, 63 lk.
August Mälk. Personaalnimestik. Koostanud Anne Valmas. Tallinn: Eesti Teaduste Akadeemia Raamatukogu, 1991, 193 lk.
Aarne Vinkel, August Mälk. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1993, 238 lk. [2., parandatud ja täiendatud trükk: 1997.]