Rudolf Sirge

Novels Rudolf Sirge

Short stories

About Rudolf Sirge


Rudolf Sirge (30./17. XII 1904 - 24. VIII 1970) was one of the central prose authors of the Soviet era.

He was born in Tartu and educated in Võru County and Tartu. After dropping out of university, he lived in various places and worked odd jobs. In the end of 1920s and beginning of 1930s, he worked for different journals and magazines. From 1932-1933, he was a journalist onboard the sailing yacht Ahto that intended to sail around the world but was forced to end the trip early. From 1937-1940, he was the press consultant of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; from 1940, the manager of the press department of the Johannes Vares-Barbarus led government. After this, he was the head of the Estonian News Agency and until the war broke out between Germany and the Soviet Union, he worked as the department manager of the Soviet Estonian State Publishing House. He was imprisoned during the German occupation and released in 1942. In 1930, he became a member of the Estonian Writers’ Union in 1930 and in 1944, of the Soviet Estonian Writers’ Union. From 1944 to 1945, he worked as a secretary for the Writers’ Union and in 1946, 1951-1958 and 1965-1968, he held different positions at Looming editorial board. He was also a deputy of the Supreme Soviet of the Estonian SSR. His novel Rahu! Leiba! Maad! ('Peace! Bread! Land!', 1929) came second at the Loodus publishing house’s novel competition. His stories Logi ('Log') and Samm-sammult ('Step by Step') received the State Prize of the Soviet Estonia in 1948. In 1957, he became the Merited Writer of the ESSR. His novel Maa ja rahvas ('Land and People', 1956) received the literary award of the E. Vilde collective farm in 1965. He is buried at Tallinna Metsakalmistu (Forest Cemetery).

His literary debut came in the beginning of the 1920s with short prose and children’s stories. His prose collections Võõras võim ('Foreign Power', 1927) and Maanteel ('On the Highway', 1927) explore social topics and have an air of protest. His novel Rahu! Leiba! Maad! ('Peace! Bread! Land!', 1929), which depicts the events of 1917 and 1918 and slum life in Tartu, received more attention. The novel was re-worked to fit the Soviet agenda ja re-published under the title Tulukesed luhal ('Lights on the Flood-meadow', 1961). The novel Must suvi ('Black Summer', 1936) describes the 1918 German occupation. Among his early works, his psychological novel Häbi südames ('Ashamed at Heart', 1938) is considered the most artistically accomplished.

His short prose consists of period portrayals with a psychological component, such as in the story collection Väikesed soovid ('Small Wishes', 1936), descriptions of German occupation in the collection Algava päeva eel ('Before the New Day', 1947), contemporary stories in Ühise töö rütmis ('In the Pace of Shared Work', 1951) and village themes in Kutsuv rada ('Beckoning Trail', 1954). The prose collection Tuultest sasitud ('Ruffled by Winds', 1965) includes one of his most outstanding short stories of short prose, Rabamännid ('Bog Pines'). This collection also has passionately written fishing stories along with nature descriptions, which bring new tones and colors to Sirge’s works.

Sirge's main work is Maa ja rahvas ('Land and People', 1956), which is one of the most important novels of 1950s Soviet Estonian literature and describes the turbulent time of 1940-1941 in an Estonian village. The character of the old landlord Logina Petri is remarkable, along with the fact that for the first time in Soviet Estonian literature, the 1941 deportations are described.

Being well-traveled, Sirge also wrote many travelogues: from the controversial Tänapäeva Venemaa ('Russia of Today', co-authored with Aleksander Antson, 1930), which describes his trip in the Soviet Union, to the work Mitmest kaarest ('From Many Directions', 1964), which has descriptions of his trips from 1929-1952. The latter work also includes a description of his unfinished round the world trip titled Sule ja purjega ('With Pen and Sail'). The collection Meretaguste juures ('Visiting Across the Sea', 1968) has stories of his later trips to the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

From the 1920s up to the Soviet period, Sirge was also a prolific critic. He mainly translated from Russian and English and was also the translator of Robinson Crusoe (1950).

A. K. (Translated by A. S.)


Books in Estonian

Rahu! Leiba! Maad!. [2. köidet.] Tartu: Loodus, 1929, 782 lk.
Must suvi. Tartu: Noor-Eesti, 1936, 217 lk. [2. tr 2007.]
Häbi südames. Tartu: Eesti Kirjastuse Kooperatiiv, 1938, 397 lk. [Järgnevad trükid: 1959, 1976.]
Maa ja rahvas. Tallinn: Eesti Riiklik Kirjastus, 1956, 639 lk. [Järgnevad trükid: 1959, 1965, 1976.]
Tulukesed luhal (Rahu! Leiba! Maad!). Tallinn: Eesti Riiklik Kirjastus, 1961, 639 lk. [2. trükk: 1977.]
Kolmekesi lauas. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1970, 152 lk.

Maanteel. Novelle. Tartu: Sõnavara, 1927, 167 lk.
Võõras võim. Kaks juttu. Tartu: Sõnavara, 1927, 94 lk.
Väikesed soovid. Lihtsaid jutte. Tartu: Noor-Eesti, 1935, 191 lk.
Luhtunud lennud. Kaks juttu. Tartu: Eesti Kirjastuse Kooperatiiv, 1937, 205 lk.
Algava päeva eel. Novellid. Tallinn: Ilukirjandus ja Kunst, 1947, 310 lk.
Ühise töö rütmis. Jutustusi. Tallinn: Eesti Riiklik Kirjastus, 1951, 253 lk.
Kutsuv rada. Jutustusi. Tallinn: Eesti Riiklik Kirjastus, 1954, 291 lk.
Tuultest sasitud. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1965, 255 lk.

Äri huvides. Tallinn: Autorikaitse Ühing, 1936, 44 lk.
Must suvi. Näidend 3 vaatuses 9 pildis samanimelise romaani ainestikul Saksa okupatsiooniajast. Tallinn: Autorikaitse Ühing, 1937, 151 lk.

Children's books
Väike, aga tubli. Tallinn: Ilukirjandus ja Kunst, 1949, 85 lk. [Järgnevad trükid: 1954, 1986.]

Rudolf Sirge, Aleksander Antson, Tänapäeva Venemaa. Tartu: Noor-Eesti, 1930, 231 lk.
Mitmest kaarest. Reisireportaaže aastaist 1929-1952. Tallinn: Eesti Riiklik Kirjastus, 1964, 334 lk.
Meretaguste juures. Reaktiiv-reisipilte. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1968, 288 lk.

Józef Pilsudski: uue Poola looja. Tartu: Eesti Kirjanduse Selts, 1937, 159 lk.

Collected works
Teosed, 1. köide. Häbi südames. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1976, 280 lk.
Teosed, 2. köide. Maa ja rahvas. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1976, 607 lk.
Teosed, 3. köide. Tulukesed luhal (Rahu! Leiba! Maad!). Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1977, 576 lk.
Teosed, 4. köide. Lühiproosa, 1. osa: 1924-1938. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1978, 316 lk.
Teosed, 5. köide. Lühiproosa, 2. osa: 1941-1967. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1979, 432 lk.
Teosed, 6. köide. Jutustused. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1980, 464 lk.
Teosed, 7. köide. Reisipublitsistika. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1980, 589 lk.
Teosed, 8. köide. Otse ja serviti: vaatlusi, vaagimisi, arvamusi a. 1927-1966. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1982, 288 lk.

About Rudolf Sirge
Ülo Tonts, Rudolf Sirge. Lühimonograafia. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1974, 156 lk. [Sari 'Eesti kirjamehi'.]