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Estonia 100

Photo by Ilya Orehov on Unsplash

This week at we celebrate one hundred years of the Republic of Estonia by immersing ourselves in Estonian literature. Norvik is proud to have published works by several Estonian authors. Viivi Luik’s The Beauty of History and Ilmar Taska’s newly published debut novel Pobeda 1946: A Car Called Victory transport us to life under Soviet occupation, while Anton Tammsaare’s satire The Misadventures of the New Satan is an enduring classic of European literature. Pick up a copy to celebrate the Estonian Centennial.

Pobeda 1946: A Car Called Victory

Ilmar Taska

Translated by Christopher Moseley

ISBN-13: 9781909408425

Buy it here.

Read an extract here.

In Tallinn in 1946 a young boy is transfixed by the beauty of a luxurious cream-coloured car gliding down the street. It is a Russian Pobeda, a car called Victory. The sympathetic driver invites the boy for a ride and enquires about his family. Soon the boy’s father disappears. Ilmar Taska’s debut novel captures the distrust and fear among Estonians living under Soviet occupation after World War II. The reader is transported to a world seen through the eyes of a young boy, where it is difficult to know who is right and who is wrong, be they occupiers or occupied. Resistance fighters, exiles, informants and torturers all find themselves living in Stalin’s long shadow.


The Misadventures of the New Satan 

Anton Tammsaare

Translated by Christopher Moseley and Olga Shartze

ISBN-13: 9781909408432

Buy it here.

Satan has a problem: God has come to the conclusion that it is unfair to send souls to hell if they are fundamentally incapable of living a decent life on earth. If this is the case, then hell will be shut down, and the human race written off as an unfortunate mistake. Satan is given the chance to prove that human beings are capable of salvation – thus ensuring the survival of hell – if he agrees to live as a human being and demonstrate that it is possible to live a righteous life. St Peter suggests that life as a farmer might offer Satan the best chance of success, because of the catalogue of privations he will be forced to endure. And so Satan ends up back on earth, living as Jürka, a great bear of a man, the put-upon tenant of a run-down Estonian farm. His patience and good nature are sorely tested by the machinations of his scheming, unscrupulous landlord and the social and religious hypocrisy he encounters.

 


The Beauty of History

Viivi Luik

Translated by Hildi Hawkins

ISBN-13: 9781909408272

Buy it here.

Riga. News of the Prague Spring washes across Europe, causing ripples on either side of the Iron Curtain. A young Estonian woman has agreed to pose as a model for a famous sculptor, who is trying to evade military service and escape to the West. Although the model has only a vague awareness of politics – her interest in life is primarily poetic – the consequences of the politics of both past and present repeatedly make themselves felt. Chance remarks overheard prompt memories of people and places, language itself becomes fluid, by turns deceptive and reassuring. The Beauty of History is a novel of poetic intensity, of fleeting moods and captured moments. It is powerfully evocative of life within the Baltic States during the Soviet occupation, and of the challenge to artists to express their individuality whilst maintaining at least an outward show of loyalty to the dominant ideology. Written on the cusp of independence, as Estonia and Latvia sought to regain their sovereignty in 1991, this is a novel that can be seen as an historic document – wistful, unsettling, and beautiful.

 

Also available:

From Baltic Shores

Edited by Christopher Moseley

ISBN-13: 9781870041256

Buy it here.

This anthology contains stories by Scandinavian and Baltic authors, including Arvo Valton (Estonia), Albert Bels (Latvia) and Romualdas Lankauskas (Lithuania).

 

 

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Rebirth of an Emperor

It has been a long wait for a new translation of The Emperor of Portugallia but now it is here, to delight Selma Lagerlöf fans old and new. Translated by Peter Graves, it is the latest addition to our ‘Lagerlöf in English’ series, which was launched in 2011 with the aim of making the works of Selma Lagerlöf readily available to English-language readers in new, top-quality translations. Previously published titles in the series include: The Löwensköld Ring (2011), The Phantom Carriage (2011), Lord Arne’s Silver (2011), Nils Holgersson’s Wonderful Journey through Sweden (2013), A Manor House Tale (2015), Charlotte Löwensköld (2015), Mårbacka (2016) and Anna Svärd (2016).

The Emperor of Portugallia is a tale of the bond between parents and children; of the expectations that lie in the roles of the different family members and the conflicted feelings tied to these. The main character of the novel, who adopts the title Emperor of Portugalla as he later descends into madness, is Jan, a poor farm labourer. He becomes a father at quite a late age and, rather to his surprise, finds himself thrilled and overwhelmed with love for his baby daughter. His daughter Klara is a wilful and clever child, and their bond grows stronger as she grows older. When she reaches the age of 17, Jan finds himself in huge debt through no fault of his own, and Klara offers to help by going to the big city, Stockholm, to work and earn the money the family desperately needs. Klara leaves, and so does Jan’s sanity. He creates a fantasy world for himself; a world where his alter ego the Emperor of Portugallia resides with the Empress Klara. Despite the seeming madness of this world, it functions as a cradle of support for Jan and provides surprising insight.

This novel has been described as perhaps the most private of Selma Lagerlöf’s books. At the core of the story, we find the relationship of father and daughter – a theme Lageröf frequently returns to in her works. For this particular tragic novel, the theme led her to consider ‘a Swedish King Lear’ as a possible title. The Emperor of Portugallia, then, is a novel that explores the family and the rights and duties in the relationship between parents and children. It has been described as ‘a sermon on the fourth commandment’ – ‘Honour thy father and thy mother, as the Lord thy God has commanded thee’.

Selma Lagerlöf was a popular writer during her lifetime, and when Kejsarn av Portugallien was published in 1914, it was quickly translated into an array of languages. In fact, translations of Lagerlöf’s works exist in close to fifty languages. Most of her novels were translated into English during her lifetime. But the interrelations between nations and cultures change over time, and the same is true of language and of approaches to translation. That is why it is important to renew translations and inject new life into old classics over the course of time. Each Norvik Lagerlöf volume has a ‘Translator’s Afterword’ in which a range of issues encountered by the translator can be highlighted – an aspect of the volumes that also adds to their usefulness in teaching.

Back in 1916, Velma Swanston Howard was responsible for the English translation of Kejsarn of Portugallien. She was an American of Swedish origin and by far the most prolific early translator of Lagerlöf’s works; many of her translations have been repeatedly republished up to the present day. Without her work and dedication, Lagerlöf’s novels might not have been available to English readers. But language inevitably evolves, and it was high time for a new English version of this moving classic. We hope you will enjoy it!

Get your copy of The Emperor of Portugallia here.

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VOTES FOR WOMEN!

The centenary of voting rights for women in the United Kingdom is today, 6 February, and will be marked with commemorative events round the country in coming weeks and months. The Representation of the People Act 1918 enabled all men and some women over the age of 30 to vote for the first time and paved the way for universal suffrage 10 years later.

So there is no better time to remind readers about our English translation of Elin Wägner’s Penwoman, the classic novel of the Swedish women’s suffrage movement, written in 1910 amid the hopes, fears, triumphs and setbacks of campaigning.

The novel, whose central character is a young female journalist, offers exceptional insights into the dedicated work and strong sense of sisterhood uniting a group of women campaigning for suffrage. But it also explores a range of other issues affecting the situation of women in Sweden at the time, from the role of paid work to matters of morality, eroticism and love. The refreshingly disrespectful and witty style has helped make the novel one of Wägner’s most enduringly popular.

We still have some copies of this hard to find novel in our office. Please email norvik.press@ucl.ac.uk to get hold of one.