Olavi Ruitlane



Short stories

About Olavi Ruitlane


Olavi Ruitlane (born 1. VII 1969) is a writer, publicist, and screenwriter, who has written prose, poetry and plays both in Estonian language and Võro dialect, but is mainly known for his humorous novels that are critical of society.

Ruitlane was born in Tartu, his parents were working class people from Võru county. In the same year, his family relocated to Võru city. He graduated from Võru I Secondary School, after which he attended three years of Võru School of Industry, but later graduated from Võru distant learning secondary school. In 1992, he first moved to Tartu, then later to Võõpsu village near Räpina. Ruitlane has worked many jobs, since 2002 he is a freelance writer. He is one of the core members of the literary group Tartu NAK (Young Authors’ Association).

His first work, Inemise sisu (‘Essence of Man’, 1998), was recognized for its spirited poems, in which a simple and straightforward style leads to a punch-line message. The texts of the poetry collection Kaera Jaan ja mister Proper (‘Kaera Jaan and Mister Proper’, 1999) are in strongly worded doggerel and handle everyday subjects by uniting an ethno-futuristic world view and satirical pathos. In cooperation with the artist Herkki Erich Merila, he wrote the art and poetry book Eesti edulood (‘Estonian Success Stories’, 2013). The poetry collection Mida isa vajab (‘What Father Needs’, 2018) is addressed to children and contains brisk and clever poems inspired by children’s father-themed stories and drawings.

Ruitlane has written plays in the Võro dialect that have been staged as open-air performances. His first play Volli (2004) is about forest brothers (resistance fighters engaging in guerilla warfare against the Soviet occupiers). The musical play Pristan (2008), co-authored with Aapo Ilves, depicts village life near the Tartu-Pihkva waterway before and during WWI. Together with Kauksi Ülle, he wrote the play Peko (2013), which is based on Seto history and tradition (Peko is a spirit or god from the mythology of Baltic Finnic peoples, who has been historically important to Seto in particular).

The young adult fantasy novel Kail (‘On the Pier’, 2000) tells a story of 9-year-old boy Kail, who has died, but who passes into a parallel world akin to ancient Estonia after death. A moving love story and the fight between good and evil unfolds in the novel, which also touches upon the journey of souls after death and the nature of black magic.

Kroonu (‘Russian Army’, 2004) depicts the absurdity, institutional cruelty, and negligence in the Soviet army in the late 1980s through three male characters, who try to use a humorous outlook on life to combat it.

The novel Naine (‘Woman’, 2009) was controversial among readers. It offers a humorous, yet an honest and accurate description of the romantic relationship between Man and Woman, all the while slamming common stereotypes and ignoring sensitive taboos. The real and robust depiction of archetypical characters and situations gives this relationship novel a strong social and reality show-like dimension, where the author does not shy away from obscenities either.

The biographically influenced bestseller Vee peal (‘On the Water’, 2015) offers insight into the boyhood of the early teen main character, who grows up in the small town of Võru in early 1980s. The sharply humorous and adventurous plot depicts the painful coming of age story of a 12-year-old boy, while also dissecting relationships and emphasizing humans’ basic need for care and love. There is also a well-received movie of the same name (2020, directed by Peeter Simm).

Ruitlane has published his poems in several collections, including the Estonian punk poetry anthology Tagasi prügimäele (‘Back to the Garbage Dump’, 2000), the Estonian dialect poetry anthology Ime kütken tähe poole kist (‘Called to the Stars’, 2002) and the joint poetry collection of five Võro authors Viie pääle (‘Five of Us’, 2005). He has written both Estonian and Võro lyrics for several bands and groups. He wrote the script for the film Johannes Pääsukese tõeline elu (‘Self Made Cameraman’, 2019, directed by Hardi Volmer). Ruitlane has been recognized with several literary prizes and awards.

A. O. (Translated by A. A.)

Books in Estonian

. Tallinn: O. Ruitlane, 2000, 191 lk.
Kroonu. Räpina: Väiku Välläandja, 2005, 159 lk. [2. trükk: Pärnu: Jumalikud Ilmutused, 2009, 228 lk.]
Naine. Pärnu: Jumalikud Ilmutused, 2009, 224 lk.
Vee peal. Tallinn: ZA/UM, 2015, 196 lk.

Inemise sisu
. Tartu: Eesti Kostabi Selts, 1998, 30 lk.
Kaera Jaan ja mister Proper. Võru: Võro Selts VKKF, 1999, 48 lk.
Eesti edulood. Tallinn: Peatamatu, 2013, 189 lk.
Mida isa vajab. Tallinn: Stafart Media, 2018, 31 lk.

Volli. Võru: Võro Selts VKKF, 2004, 63 lk.
Aapo Ilves, Olavi Ruitlane, Pristan. Räpina: Väike Kirjastaja, 2008, 52 lk.

Kauksi Ülle, Olavi Ruitlane, Peko. Tartu: Vanemuine, 2013.