Valev Uibopuu (19./6. X 1913 – 18. III 1997) was a prose writer and one of the most well-known Estonian expatriate writers.
He was born in Karula parish, Võru County. He studied in primary schools in Tartu, Karaski (Kõlleste parish), Linnamäe and Kanepi and in Otepää gymnasium. In 1939, he came to Tallinn and was the editor at the newspaper Perekonnaleht. He worked different jobs, and from 1942 to 1943, was employed at the editorial board of the newspaper Eesti Sõna. In 1943, he fled to Finland and continued working different jobs, in addition to participating in the editing of the Eesti Looming almanac. In 1944, he went to Sweden and worked at the editorial board of the newspaper Välis-Eesti. In 1953, he graduated the Estonian gymnasium in Stockholm and studied at the departments of philosophy at Helsinki (1953) and Lund University (1954-1958). He received his licentiate degree in 1967 and his doctorate in 1970 (dissertation Similarkomparative Konstruktionen im Finnischen und Estnischen). From 1954-1970, he worked in Lund at the Estonian Writers' Cooperative publishing house and also chaired it. From 1971-1980, he was a docent at Lund University and the director of the Finno-Ugric Institute. From 1944-1964, he was married to the Finnish writer Tuuli Reijonen. He was both a member (from 1945) and a board member of the Estonian Writers’ Union Abroad, a member of the Swedish Writers’ Union from 1960 and a member of the Estonian PEN Club. He received the Henrik Visnapuu Literature Prize for his short story collection Igavene küla ('Eternal Village', 1954), the F. J. Wiedemann Language Award (1992), the Bernand Kangro Literary Prize (1993), the Estonian National Congress in Sweden prize for Meie ja meie hõimud (‘Us and Our Tribes’, 1984) and the Order of the National Coat of Arms of Estonia, III Class (1997). He died in Lund and is buried at Lüllemäe cemetery in Karula.
His first prose pieces were published in magazines in 1930. His stories are dominated by Estonia-related topics and the setting is often in a village. This is combined with the expatriate experience of living in Sweden, e.g. in the story collections Linnud puuris ('Caged Birds', 1946), Kahju läinud aegadest ('A Shame about Times Past', 1949) and Igavene küla ('Eternal Village', 1954). His later collections Mosaiik ('Mosaic', 1962) and Toselli serenaad ('Toselli’s Serenade', 1982) focus more on life abroad, yet the human nature is depicted as unchanging. The collection Muutunud maailm ('Changed World', 1997) provides an overview of his short stories.
The novel Keegi ei kuule meid ('Nobody Can Hear Us', 1948) is probably Uibopuu’s most well-known work. It depicts the turbulent events in a small town from 1939-1941, the town depicted is recognizably Valga. The action is described from the point of view of regular folk. Uibopuu is interested in psychology, the characters need to make choices when there are no good options available. The small town can be interpreted as a model of a small country – even the title refers to the weak voice and isolation of a small nation. The novel Neli tuld ('Four Fires', 1951), which uses a modern changing of viewpoints, may also be interpreted as a model of an expatriate society.
One of Uibopuu’s top works, the psychological novel Janu ('Thirst', 1957) depicts the recovery of a young girl from a hopeless disease, bone tuberculosis. Author has drawn from autobiographical sources in depicting the disease. The novel focuses on the inner world of the uibopuuesque solitary main character. Being bedridden due to the illness, the senses heighten, and analytical faculties improve. The surrounding nature and emotions of the main character are depicted with utmost intensity. Paradoxically, the years that were weighed down due to the illness turn out to be a beautiful time when looked back on from old age.
The conflict between the individual and society is at the forefront of the novel Markuse muutumised ('The Changings of Markus', 1961), the main character of which may be seen as Christ’s double in the modern big city.
The novel Lademed ('Deposits', 1970) explores expatriate issues through a non-expatriate main character, who joins the expatriate community because they feel left out everywhere else. The novel has influences of existentialism, which occur in his earlier prose as well. In the duology Kaks inimelu ajapöördeis: Mina ja Tema ('Two Human Lives in the Twists of Time: Me and He', 1990) and Ainult juhus ('Only Chance', 1991), he again explores expatriate issues, this time through the eyes of Estonians who are scattered all over the world following WWII.
In addition to fiction, he also wrote articles and reviews - the collection Ajavoolu võrendikest ('Of the Stream Pools of Time', 1987) - and was active in exploring philological issues and Finno-Ugric topics in Meie ja meie hõimud ('Us and Our Tribes', 1984).
A. K. (Translated by A. S.)
Books in Estonian
Võõras kodu. Vadstena: Orto, 1945, 239 lk.
Keegi ei kuule meid. Vadstena: Orto, 1948, 438 lk. [Järgnevad trükid: 1973, 1992, 2009.]
Neli tuld. Lund: Eesti Kirjanike Kooperatiiv, 1951, 327 lk. [2. trükk: 1993.]
Janu. Lund: Eesti Kirjanike Kooperatiiv, 1957, 327 lk. [2. trükk: 1997.]
Markuse muutumised. Lund: Eesti Kirjanike Kooperatiiv, 1961, 347 lk. [2. trükk: 1997.]
Lademed. Lund: Eesti Kirjanike Kooperatiiv, 1970, 292 lk.
Mina ja Tema. Esimene raamat romaanist Kaks inimelu ajapöördeis. Lund: Eesti Kirjanike Kooperatiiv, 1990, 200 lk.
Ainult juhus. Teine raamat romaanist Kaks inimelu ajapöördeis. Lund: Eesti Kirjanike Kooperatiiv, 1991, 211 lk.
Väravate all. Jutustus. Tartu: Noor-Eesti, 1936, 136 lk.
Viljatu puu. Novellid. Tartu: Ilukirjandus ja Kunst, 1940, 201 lk.
Linnud puuris. Vadstena: Orto, 1946, 280 lk.
Kahju läinud aegadest. Miniatuure ja jutustusi. Vadstena: Orto, 1949, 231 lk.
Igavene küla. Lund: Eesti Kirjanike Kooperatiiv, 1954, 302 lk.
Mosaiik. Novelle ja laaste. Lund: Eesti Kirjanike Kooperatiiv, 1962, 283 lk.
Toselli serenaad. Jutustusi, novelle ja dialooge. Lund: Eesti Kirjanike Kooperatiiv, 1982, 214 lk.
Muutunud maailm. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1997, 275 lk. [Sari 'Eesti novellivara'.]
Hõbedane õng. Tartu-Tallinn: Loodus, 1940, 28 lk.
Metsamajake. Tallinn: Pedagoogiline Kirjandus, 1941, 47 lk.
Meie ja meie hõimud. Peatükke soomeugrilaste minevikust ja olevikust. Lund: Eesti Kirjanike Kooperatiiv, 1984, 302 lk.
Ajavoolu võrendikest. Mõtteraamat kirjanduse, keele ja kultuuri vallast. Lund: Eesti Kirjanike Kooperatiiv, 1987, 228 lk.
Välismaine Eesti Kirjanike Liit. Tallinn: Eesti Kirjanike Liit, 2012, 143 lk.
About Valev Uibopuu
Ülo Tonts, Valev Uibopuu. Elu ja loomingu lugu. Tartu: Ilmamaa, 2004, 239 lk.