A pure coincidence

20. 6. 2023 / Soňa Svobodová

čas čtení 7 minut
Not so long ago and by pure chance, I got my hands on two books and coincidentally both were by one of Estonia's most respected contemporary poets and writers Viivi Luik. Her work is very popular with readers around the world - it has been translated into many languages. The author has received a number of prestigious awards, the most esteemed of which is the Estonian Order of the White Star 3rd class. These two books ‘The Beauty of History’ (published in 1991) and ‘Shadow Theatre ‘ or ‘Schattenspiel’ (Varjuteater, 2010) can be found here in the Czech Republic, although only in English and German: Both these novels have been classified as classic Nordic fiction.

Mrs. Luik, I believe that a third novel should be included with these two novels of yours as being part of your key texts. The book was published in 1985 under the title ‘The Seventh Spring of Peace’ (Seitsmes rahukevad). Would you agree?


Each one of my readers holds different works of mine as their most important. Some regard my novels as my main work, others my poems and for some my essays are the ones that speak to them most. For some, ‘The Seventh Spring of Peace’ is my best novel, for others ‘The Beauty of History’; some prefer ‘Shadow Theatre’ (Schattenspiel) and my newest book ‘The Golden Crown’ (2023).

For me, my poems matter a lot and also the two last books, ‘Shadow Theatre’ and ‘The Golden Crown’.

All of these books have been translated into fifteen world languages, but none of them into Czech. Why is that?

Vladimir Macura intended to translate ‘The Seventh Spring of Peace’ into Czech but his life ended unexpectedly early and thus the book remains untranslated.

This is sad. Do you think there will be any follower who would start translating it?

If there is a publishing house and a publisher, who is interested in my works, then of course it would be possible, because in my novel „The Beauty of History” I also mention the year 1968 in Prague.

Yes, and this novel of yours is described as a perfect documentary of this time, which is not only movingly beautiful, but also very disturbing. Do you agree with this statement?

Yes, I agree this statement, although the beauty of the story is sad, it can also be a kind of wave of hope.

And I´m just adding that that´s it, because each of us needs hope...

Thanks to this novel, you are known in Iceland, which must be very encouraging for you?

My novel ‘The Beauty of History’ has indeed been published in Icelandic. I am not surprised by this, since this book has been translated into all the other Nordic languages. I am much more intrigued that it has been translated into Albanian. Does this encourage the author? I have never thought that a book being translated encourages the writer. Rather he or she is encouraged by the finishing of another book.

You are not only the author of novels, but also of children's books, whose imagination is known to know no bounds, whereas this is not generally the case with adults. Does your imagination also know no bounds and is it very close to that of your ‘inner child’?

It was a long time ago that I wrote some children's books, but I quickly lost interest in writing them. Besides poetry and novels, I have been more engaged in writing essays, columns and opinion pieces for newspapers and journals. I have tried to capture life and people as authentically as possible. In life, you always have laughter and crying beside each other. This is the way it is also in my books. It is possible that this is more noticeable in children and their being in the world and perhaps this is the reason why an authentic way of being is more associated with children. But crying and laughter are of course side by side in everybody's life.

Yes. You are right, but when we think about current global events and their not very happy characterisics in this context, one would cry. Don´t you also have that feeling of frustration and hopelnessness?

When it´s darkest, it always brightens. History teaches us this. Therefore, I suffer no frustration and no hopelessness, for there is no need to be afraid.

Your surname ‘Luik’ in the literal translation means ‘Swan’. This is the largest Czech water bird and for me it is synonymous with constancy, beauty and grace, which are also very characteristic of some of the words in your poetry and in other works. What would you say about this?

One would like to hope that this is true and that people's names are indeed more meaningful than we think.

You published your first collection of poems ‘Holiday of Clouds’ (Pilvede püha) in 1965, and it was followed by many others, so I have to ask you, what sets of life experiences have contributed to the creation of your poems?

A poem makes it possible to capture the spirit of a specific time more perfectly than any other form of text. Today, in this century and in this millenium, poems should be something that has not been seen before and should be connected to the time that we are living in. European poetry is still living in the past for me. I have tried to express our time in prose, since I as with many other poets, do not yet know how to express this time in poems.

Perhaps this is because this time in which we all live is focused only on materialism rather than spirituality, so there is a lack of balance...

With your husband Jaak Jõerüüt, who is also a well known writer and diplomat, you have had the opportunity to live outside Estonia for a total of eighteen years (in Helsinki, Berlin, Rome, Riga, Stockholm, New York and Switzerland), which is also reflected in your novels. Would there be any places in the world where you could live permanently?

Yes, my husband Jaak Jõerüüt has been Estonian Ambassador in Helsinki, Rome, New York, Riga and Stockholm.

I have lived in Berlin for an extended period of time because I received an annual writer’s scholarship from Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (DAAD). In Switzerland, I was resident there for an extended period because I was a fellow. Of course, all these countries have left their impression on me. In some way, I regard all of them as my home and they have left a mark on my texts. I can agree with what Czeslaw Milosz has said: my home is Europe. Estonia is part of it and I live in Estonia as my language is Estonian. The language itself is also my home.

After so many years living outside of Estonia, how difficult was it for you to acclimatize back to the country of your birth and to continue as a writer?

I have adapted to new places quickly. I consider that wherever I happen to be living it is also my home. As quickly as I adapted to living in Rome or Berlin I have also felt at home coming back to Estonia. Especially as Estonia does feel like a luxurious green oasis after you have lived in crowded big cities.

Yes, there are fewer and fewer luxurious green oases in the world, as if all those responsible forget what an important part of our lives they are, right?

They are not only an important part of our lives, they are „are” our lives, ewen if humanity has forgotten it or does not know it yet.

But not only on this topic, but also on many others, we could talk for a long time, so I will ask you, what interesting topics you are currently working on?

Currently, I am working on a novel about our time, possibly about war. But I would not like to go into more detail for now as some things must also remain a secret.

Thank you for the interview.



Obsah vydání | 22. 6. 2023