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||Marie Under (1883 - 1980)|
Estonian poet, generally
considered among the greatest poets
of the 20th-century in her language. Marie Under escaped with her
1944 the Soviet occupation of Estonia to Sweden, where she spent in
exile the rest of her life. Under's works have been translated into
some ten languages. The final two of her 13 collections of poems
appeared while she lived in exile. The Estonian PEN club nominated
Under several times as a candidate for the Nobel Prize for literature.
Ei rannal lesi
Under was born in Tallinn, the daughter of Fredrich
Under, a schoolteacher, and Leena (Kerner) Under. Both of her parents
come originally from Hiiumaa, Estonia's second largest island. Under
learned to read
at the age of four and began to writing verse at the age of thirteen,
but her first collection did not appear until se was thirty-four.
From 1891 to 1900 Under attended a private German-language school,
studying German, French, and Russian. Later Under translated new German
poetry, Schiller, Goethe in Estonian, and also such writers as Pär
Lagerkvist and Boris Pasternak. Under worked briefly as a salesclerk in
a bookstore, but after meeting the writer Eduard Vilde, she joined for
a short time the radical newspaper Teataja.
In 1902 Under married Carl Hacker, an accountant, and moved with him near Moskow. From 1902 to 1906 she lived in Russia; her two daughter were born there. In 1913 Under met in the Estonia Theater Artur Adson (1889–1977), a young poet, whose encouragement and support was crucial for her literary development. After divorcing Hacker, she married Adson, who later wrote her biography (pub. 1974).
Under's first poem appeared in the newspaper Postimees when she was 21. In the 1910s Under contributed to various anthologies and made in 1917 her debut as a writer with a collection of sonnets, Sonetid. With this work, a declaration of youthful love, longing for beauty, and joy of life. Her second collection, Eelõitseng (1918), consisted of poems written between 1904 and 1912.
Under was the central member of the Siuru group, which advocated on the eve of Estonian independence new literary movements, such as expressionism and futurism. The name "Siuru" came from the Estonian national epos Kalevipoeg; it is a a mythical blue bird. Under's early work were more or less impressionistic pieces, but she soon found her voice in emotional, dynamic way of expression that had much bold freshness. Her most sensual collection of poems, Sinine puri (1920), with its celebration of erotic love, defied boldly bourgeois conventionality and made her the best-known representative of the Estonian neoromantic poetry.
After World War I Under's poems became more pessimistic. She employed religious images to convey her feelings of pain, delirium, and suffering – a dark angel of death comes to the door as a gate-crasher, prophets stumble over words, Noah's arch sails into the flood and rain. Especially German expressionism influenced her deeply. In 1920 she translated into Estonian a selection of recent German verse by George Heym, Franz Werfel, Ernst Stadler, and Walter Hasenclever. Most of the poems were taken from Menschheitsdämmerung: Symphonie jüngster Dichtung (1920), edited by the writer and journalist Kurt Pinthus.
'Unetuma laul,' about insomnia, from which Under suffered sporadically throughout her life, is one her most anthologized works. "Even an executioner can have a peace," the "I" of the poem realizes tormented, and wanders restlessly in clogs with a ghost dog. The whole world has fallen asleep, the poet, like a guard, is the only one awake, seeking release. Under paralles sleep with death and beds with coffins. The poems ends with a resignation: sleep comes only after giving up everything, in the calm rest under the ground.
Kuhugille, kuhugille ma ei mahu!
Õnnevarjutus (1929), in which Under returned to ballad lyrics, is considered among her central works. Under used traditional themes from folk poetry, mostly tragic love, but brought into them solemn timelessness, seeing human yearning for happiness always shadowed by unavoidable doom, generation after generation. Dark visions of frozen waters and chained wind, contrasted to short moments of happiness, being alive, were central also in her tenth collection, Kivi südamelt (1935).
During the period of independence, Under was the dominant poet in Estonian literature along with Ernst Enno. Her financial problems were greatly relieved after the
National Fund for Culture decided to give her permanent support. In
1937, simultaneously with Thomas Mann, she became an honorary member of the International PEN. During the
early years of World War II, when Estonia was taken over by the USSR and
then occupied by the Germany, Under wrote about the suffering and the
resistance of her people in Jõulutervitus (1941) and Mureliku
Like many established writers of the older and middle
generation, such as Johannes Aavik (1880-1973), Gustav Suits
(1883-1956), Karl Rumor (1886-1971), Karl Ristikivi (1912-1977), and Valev Uibopuu (1913-1997), Under
chose emigration over life under Soviet rule. However, she was declared in 1940 a "distinguished people's poet".
From 1945 to 1957 she worked as an archivist in the Stockholm's Theatre Museum. After retirement, she lived on a modest old-age pension. Her first collection of poetry in exile, Sädemed tuhas (Sparks in the ashes), appeared in 1954, and was followed by Ääremail (1963, Borderland). Under's translation of Boris Pasternak's The Poems of Yuri Zhivago, published by Vaba Eesti, came out in 1960; the novel was translated by Artur Adson.
Under's later poetry was
marked with philosophical observations of life and nature, and her
metaphysical, visionary introspection. In
this humane patriotism Under's work
exceeded nationalistic or political boundaries, but her poems also
contributed in keeping Estonian literature alive as emigre literature. Several poems dealt
with feelings of rootlessness and homesickness, without mentioning the
name of her home country.
Because of heavy arthritis, Under spent her last years at a Convalescent Care Hospital. She died on September 25, 1980, in Stockholm. Under was mistakenly cremated against her wish. As an emigrant writer, she did not enjoy in Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic official favor, although she was removed in the 1950s from the list of banned authors, and her eightieth birthday was noted also in the Soviet Estonia – articles appeared on her work and the authorities send her birthday greetings. Frail physically, she was unable attend celebrations organized in her honor. The Bavarian Academy of Arts made her an honorary member. Under's literary fame survived the political upheavals of the Cold War and as a sign of this, the Under and Tuglas Center for Literary Research has been founded in the house where Under worked in the 1930s.
Kord veel tagasi tahaksin
For further reading: Marie Underin runous by Elsa Haavio (1939); Anthology of Modern Estonian Poetry, ed. by W.K. Matthews (1953); 'Introduction' to Child of Man by W.K. Matthews (1955); Estonian Poetry and Language, ed. by V. Koressaar and A. Rannit (1965); 'Marie under and Estonian Poetry' by Ants Oras, in The Sewanee Review, Vol. 78, No. 2 (Spring, 1970); Marie Under and Estonian Poetry by Ants Oras (1975); Marie Under eluraamst, ed. by A. Adson (1974, 2 vols.); The Poetry of Estonia, ed. by V.B. Leitch (1983); Marie Under inimesena by Helmi Rajamaa (1983); Eesti kirjandus by Ender Nirk (1983); World Authors 1975-1980, ed. by Wineta Colby, 1985; Encyclopedia of World Literature in the 20th Century, vol. 4, ed. by Steven R. Serafin (1999); Under by Katrin Saukas (2007); 'Under Marie,' in Biographical Dictionary of Central and Eastern Europe in the Twentieth Century, edited by Wojciech Roszkowski and Jan Kofman (2008); 'Inimkonna hämarus: Marie Under ja saksa ekspressionism' by Tiina Ann Kirss, in Methis. Studia Humaniora Estonica, Vol 14, No 17/18 (2016) - Suomeksi Underilta on julkaistu valikomat Puutarhan syksy: valikoima Marie Underin runoja 1909-1962 (1978), toim. Irmeli Pääkkönen et al., ja Avaran taivaan alla (1983), suom. Aimo Rönkä. Runoja on myös kokoelmassa Eestin runotar, toim. Elsa Haavio (1940) ja Tuhat laulujen vuotta, toim. Aale Tynni (1957).