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||Valev Uibopuu (1913-1997)|
Estonian journalist, scholar, and novelist, who experimented discreetly with new techniques. Uibopuu was perhaps the best-known exile writer of his country during the decades after World War II, when Estonia was part of the Soviet Union. Uibopuu published his first short stories before the war. In his novels Uibopuu has described with deep psychological understanding people, who have become isolated from their surroundings. Often he dealt with some moral problem whose significance – perhaps bitterly tragicomic – emerges as the plot unfolds.
"Hirmus on surm, kui kaod ja lähed mulla alla, ilma et sinust midagi järele jääks. Mõni seina tõstetud palk, mõni istutatud puu, mõni kaevatud kraav, mõni veeretatud kivi ei ole siiski midagi. Need kõik kuivavad, lähevad umbe ja mädanevad, nagu sa isegi. Elav veretilk, mis igavesti jätkub, on rohkem väärt ja ainus, mis su elu lunastab. Mis tähendavad siin kõik inimeste seadmised? Ja mis see, kui mõni riivatud pullike kuski möirgama ja maad kaapima hakkab ning su soolikaid oma sarvede otsas nähä tahaks? Vana mehena mõtlen: mis on õieti ilus tegu ja mis hea tegu ning mis inetu tegu ja mis halb tegu?" (from 'Hämäriku eel' in Igavene küla, 1954)
Valev Uibopuu was born in 1913 in Võrumaa, Vana-Anstla, the son of a
forest officer. Uibopuu's mother Emili (née Roht) also came
fromVõrumaa. During the Estonian War of Independence (1917-1920), his
father, Evald, was arrested and executed by the Red Army in 1919. While
a student, Uibopuu was in a bicycle accident and wounded his knee.
Temporarily unable to walk, Uibopuu spent his time reading books and
tried his hand in writing. His early stories from 1930 include 'Arni' and 'Suremine'. 'Rahakott' was published in the magazine Eesti Noorus. Following recovery, he worked in a public library for a period.
After graduating from the coeducational school of Otepää,
he was employed as a journalist in Valga and in Tallinn, including for the magazines Perekonnaleht
and Eesti Sõna. As a writer Uibopuu started in the 1930s by publishing short stories
in the literary magazine Looming. His first book, Väravate all, came out in 1936.
Four year later followed Viljatu puu, also a collection of short stories. His early fiction,
often telling about the harsh realities of life,
was written in dispassionate style.
In 1943, before the advancing Red Army took over Estonia, Uibopuu moved to Finland, where he worked at libraries. After the Continuation War (1941-44) Finland returned prisoners of war to the Soviet Union Soviet, but also Estonian and Ingrian refugees. In Estonia, tens of thousands of people were arrested and deported to Siberia. It has been estimated, that during WWII approxmitely 70,000 people fled the country, mainly to Sweden and Germany. A number of established or aspiring writers, such as Ilmar Talve, Kalju Lepik, Marie Under, Henrik Visnapuu, Artur Adson, Karl Ristikivi, and Bernard Kangro, chose emigration over Communist reality and Socialist realism. The Soviet occupation lasted until 1991 when Estonia restored its independence.
To avoid being sent back to his occupied home country, Uibopuu
escaped in a motor boat in 1944 from Finland to Sweden, where worked
first as a journalist at the magazine Välis-Eesti and later with Bernard Kangro for the publishing
company Eesti Kirjanike Kooperativ. Several of his books appeared also in Swedish.
Along with Arved Viirlaid (born 1922),
who settled in Canada, Uibopuu
was one of the most translated Estonian exile novelists of his generation.
Before the international breakthrough of such writers as Jaan Kross, Mati Unt, and poet Jaan Kaplinski,
it was often said that the quality and quantity of literary production in exile surpassed that in Estonia.
The situation was even
compared to that of the great Polish emogration of the 19th century
Volume 16, No.2 - Summer 1970). Stockholm became one of the major centers of Estonian exiles – close to
fifty Estonian authors lived and worked in Sweden for many years.
In a letter from 1946 to his wife, the writer and
journalist Tuuli Reijonen (1904-1997), who stayed in Finland, Uibopuu
said that he is a person
who will never feel at home in a strange country. He suffered from
bouts of depression, felt homesickness, and was worried about the
russification of Estonia.
Uibopuu continued writing short stories and novels, of which several was published by Orto, a publishing company founded by Andres Laur. Uibopuu's novel production included Võõras kodu (1945), Keegi ei kuule meid (1948), and Neli tuld (1951), about the voyages and shipwreck of a vessel manned by Estonian refugees. This episodic work crystallized the mood of and the different attitudes of expatriated Estonians. In Janu (1957) Uibopuu followed in detail the life of a young girl from spring to autumns – she never fulfills her dreams of life after recovering from tuberculosis. Markuse muutumised (1961) examined the loss of idealism and the reality of welfare society. "What is wrong with that sentence, that the one who doesn't have a fountain pen is not a cultural person?"' (from Maskuse muutumised, 1961) The protagonist is a naive young man, who gets involved in increasingly awkward situations. Lademed (1970), was a story about a lonely woman and her difficulties of communing with other. In the scrutiny of the identity problems Uibopuu interweaved observations of the expatriate life.
In 1954, Uibopuu went back to Finland, where entered the University of Helsinki. After studying
theoretical philosophy and psychology, he returned to Sweden. In 1958 Uibopuu received his
M.A. from the University of Lund and in 1970 he published his doctoral thesis on Finno-Ugric
philology. Uibopuu was appointed in 1971 professor of the University of Lund, retiring
in 1980. Among his awards were Award of Dr. Arthur Puksov Foundation (Canada) in 1985
and Immigrant institute's prize 1993/94. He was a member of the Swedish PEN club and
Immigrant Institution and a correspondence member of Finno-Ugrian Society
and Finnish Literature Society. Uibopuu died on March 18, 1997, in Lund, and was buried in
Karula, Lüllemë, Estonia. He never moved back to his
old home country, though he traveled there after the independence. In the 1990s, Neli tuld,
Keegi ei kuule meid, Janu, and Markuse muuttumised,
were republished in Estonia, where his novels had not been available
for decades. From 1944, Uibopuu was married to Tuuli Reijonen, who
translated three of his books into Finnish. They lived separate lives,
meeting only 2-3 times a year in Finland or in Sweden. After
divorce in 1964, he married the Estonian nurse Malle Loesooga. Uibopuu
corresponded with Reijonen until 1993.
The mood of Uibopuu's short stories and novels is meditative. His characters reveal layer by layer more and more about themselves, but there is always something hidden and unexplained. In the first pages of Janu the lonely narrator tells that the time of her recovery was the most beautiful time in her life. "What does it mean to be lonely and forgotten? I was lonely already in my childhood." The first snow comes, and she sees her future as white and pure. But she never leaves her home, comparing her life to that of a plant chained on the soil.
For further reading: "Mitä olisinkaan tehnyt ilman kirjeitäsi, miten jaksanut elää täällä vieraalla maalla?" by Anna Hukka (pro gradu, 2014); Valev Uibopuu 19.10.1913-18.03.1997: Bibliograafia by Maie Elstein (2013); 'Relations of Estonian Exile Book to the Native Country and the World' by Anne Valmas (2005); Valev Uibopuu: elu ja loomingu lugu by Ülo Tonts (2004); Keskusteluja Valev Uibopuun kanssa / Vestlusi Valev Uibopuuga by Pertti Virtaranta (1991); Estonian Literature by Ender Nirk (1987); Estonian Literature in Exile by A. Oras and Bernard Kangro (1967) - For further information: Uibopuu, Valev (invandrarförfattare in Sverige)