Leo Metsar

Leo Metsar

The author and translator Leo Metsar (until 1936 Leo Mollok, 27. IV 1924 – 4. VIII 2010) was born in Tartu. He graduated from Hugo Treffner’s Gymnasium, where Artur Alliksaar was a classmate, in 1942. In 1948 Metsar graduated in history from the Tartu State University. From 1958 to 1963 he was a literary contributor to the newspaper Edasi, and thereafter went freelance.

The author’s first novel, Unistused ei sure (‘Dreams Don’t Die’, 1960) as well his later novels Päikesevanker (‘The Sun-Carriage’, 1964) and Ripsmetušš (‘Mascara’, 1971) are dominated by the themes of a wholesome life and- the optimal application of human powers.
The novel Unistused ei sure received great attention in its day and was translated into several languages. The treatment of subject matter and the psychological depiction in Leo Metsar’s first novel contrasts with the politically muted and assimilationist literature of the fifties. The author had taken a step toward a natural and more truthful portrayal of humanity.

His main work is the novel tetralogy set in antiquity, Keiser Julianus (‘The Emperor Julian’, 1978-2005), wherewith he opened up Estonian literature into the broader realm of general history. In this series of novels the author dramatizes the social conflicts of the latter days of the Roman state in terms of historical and cultural philosophy, comparing educated paganism and warlike religious fanaticism.

Leo Metsar was a prolific translator. He had a good knowledge of Czech and Slovak literature, bringing over fifty works to the Estonian reader. As far as translations from Czech are concerned, there no contribution in translated literature to compare with his. The best known of the authors Metsar translated are Václav Havel, Karel Čapek and Milan Kundera. In summer 2007 Metsar was awarded a high honour from the Czech Republic, the Gratias Agit, for his voluminous translation work.

Among the works that Metsar translated from German into Estonian was Thomas Mann’s novel ‘Lotte in Weimar’.

In Estonia, Metsar was awarded the Order of the White Star, Class V, in 2001 and Class IV in 2007.

L. P. (Translated by C. M.)

Books in Estonian

Unistused ei sure. Tallinn: Eesti Riiklik Kirjastus, 1960, 210 lk.
Päikesevanker. Tallinn: Eesti Riiklik Kirjastus, 1964, 216 lk.
Ripsmetušš. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1971, 92 lk.
Keiser Julianus. Ajalooline romaan. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1978, 307 lk.
Keiser Julianus. Päevik. 2. raamat. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1983, 416 lk.
Keiser Julianus. Päevik. 3. raamat. Tartu: Ilmamaa, 1994, 460 lk.
Keiser Julianus. Neljas raamat. Prokopiose ülestõus. Tartu: Ilmamaa, 2005, 267 lk.