Andres Saal

About Andres Saal Andres Saal


Andres Saal (21./9. V 1861 – 23. VI 1931) was an Estonian writer, journalist, photographer, cartographer and ethnographer, one of the best-known proponents of historical prose and promoters of knowledge of Estonian history in late-19th century Estonian literature.

Saal was born in Tori parish, the son of a farmer. He attended Selja village school and Tori parish school. At the age of 17 he took up a post as an assistant schoolmaster, while continuing his studies. In 1880 he passed the schoolteachers’ vocational examination at Tartu Teachers’ Seminary, but afterwards devoted himself mostly to journalism. He worked on the newspaper Olevik (1884-1890). He attended lectures on archaeology and history, and learned languages at the University of Tartu (1886-1890). From 1889 to 1892 he worked in Tartu as a shopkeeper; from 1892 to 1893 he studied photography and zincography in Germany, and was a recognised specialist in that field.  For a few years in the eighteen-nineties he worked in the Olevik printing house. In 1897 he left Estonia in search of opportunities for self-realisation and improved his skills in Germany. From 1898 he lived for 22 years in the Dutch East Indies (later to become Indonesia), learning the local languages and acquainting himself with their history and culture. From 1898 to 1902 he worked in a private printing house in Surabaya, occupied with zincography, photography and cartography. From 1902 to 1911 he was a photographer in the topographical service of the Dutch colonial authorities in Batavia (later Jakarta); from 1912 to 1916 he managed a photography studio there. He visited Europe several times on recreational and study leave and published abundantly on current affairs. In 1920 he retired to California, where he died. He visited Estonia for the last time in 1925. A memorial has been erected to him at Tori cemetery.

Of his earliest attempts in the field of prose, the most attention was paid to his thriller story Põgenenud kloostri kasvandik ('The Escapee from the Monastery', 1885). A considerable portion of Saal’s historical prose appeared in a period of five years: from 1889 to 1893 he published twelve national-romantic tales, whose action takes place mostly in Estonia’s distant past. Ancient historical events are merely a backdrop for exciting and tense, skilfully intertwined adventure stories, in which one can observe the outlines of young people’s popular literature characteristic of the time. In his treatment of history he achieved greater authenticity compared to previous prose writers, based on the Chronicle of Henry of Livonia, the German tradition of historical narrative, archaeological findings and material from folklore.

Most successful of Saal’s works was the historical trilogy Vambola (1889), Aita (1891) and Leili (1892-1893), which deals with the Estonians’ and Livonians’ struggle for freedom at the end of the 12th and beginning of the 13th centuries, at a time of transition from ancient independence to colonial dependence. In all three works, against a background of colourful action and unexpected turns, an overblown sentimental opposition between virtuous and vicious characters is played out. The action of the historical tale Hilda (1890) takes place around the time of the St. George’s Night uprising of 1343, and is based on the younger Livonian rhymed chronicle of Bartholomäus Hoeneke. A less definite historical background appears in in the tales Uudu ja Meeta ('Uudu and Meeta', 1892), Saare piiga ('The Maid of the Island', 1893) and Dan ja Singa ('Dan and Singa', 1893); also set at a time in the past are the events of the thrilling adventure stories Sõstrasilmad ('Currant Eyes', 1890) and Kunstniku paleus ('The Artist’s Ideal', 1892). The author collected shorter prose pieces in the collections Ämariku tunnid ('Dusk Hours', 1892) and Vaimude vallas ('Possessed by Spirits', 1894).  In his post-Romantic prose, of which the most substantial works were published in large repeated print runs, Saal brought the subject of the ancient struggle for freedom closer to Estonians, he depicted anti-slavery attitudes and cultivated a nationalist mentality, which in the early eighteen-nineties also attracted the attention of the censors. For this reason Saal sought a new field of activity for himself and started learning photography and zincography.

Wandering the wide world, Saal wrote travelogues for newspapers, and books on local history, in which he expressed his anti-colonial views. In the tale Priiuse ja isamaa eest ('For Freedom and Fatherland', 1903) he shows his opposition to the Boer War; in the novel Valge vanne ('The White Oath', 1904, in book form 1912) Saal criticises the Netherlands’ colonial policies. The topical novel Valgus hommikust ('Light of the Morning', 1908, in book form 1929) he continues on the theme of the Indonesian struggle for freedom. Many articles on Oriental conditions and cultures, historical surveys and travelogues emerged from his pen. The historical studies Päris ja prii ('Real and Free', I-II, 1891-1893) and Üleüldine isamaa ajalugu ('General History of the Fatherland', 1893) had a widespread domestic readership. In specialised periodicals he published several studies in the field of photography. Saal’s diverse output is mostly collected in the 6-volume Valitud kirjatööde kogu ('Selected Writings', 1926-1936).

A. O. (Translated by C. M.)

Books in Estonian

Põgenenud kloostri kasvandik. Algupärane jutustus. Tartu: M. Mykan, 1885, 168 lk. [E-raamat: 2015.]
Vambola. Jutustus vanast Eesti ajaloost (1209–1212). Tartu: J. Solba, 1889, 258 lk. [Järgnevad trükid: 1913, 1921, 1936, 1951, 1976, 1991. E-raamat: 2013.]
Hilda. Ajaloolone jutustus 14. aastasajast. Tallinn: K.Busch, 1890, 292 lk. [Järgnevad trükid: 1930, 1953.]
Sõstrasilmad. Tartu: Ch.Treyer, 1890, 157 lk. [Järgnevad trükid: 1903, 1909, 1913, 1917. E-raamat: 2015.]
Aita. Jutustus liivi ja eesti rahva vabadusvõitlusest 12. aastasaja lõpul. Tallinn: G. Pihlakas, 1891, 208 lk. [Järgnevad trükid: 1903, 1921, 1931, 1952, 1991. E-raamat: 2015.]
Leili, üks pagana naine. Paide: A.Seidelberg, 1892–1893, 359 lk. [Järgnevad trükid: 1926, 1991.]
Uudu ja Meeta. Jutustus vanast ajast. Rakvere: P. Erna, 1892, 79 lk.
Kunstniku paleus. Jutuke minevikust. Rakvere: M. Erna, 1892, 48 lk.
Ämariku tunnid. Tartu: A. Grenzstein, 1892, 76 lk.
Dan ja Singa. Jutustus muinasajast. Tallinn: H. J. Vahtrik, 1893, 72 lk. [E-raamat: 2015.]
Vaimude vallas. Jurjev: G. Grenzstein, 1894, 64 lk.
Romaanlik kosimine ehk Karistav kihlvedu. Rakvere: N. Erna, 1894, 40 lk.
Sala lehed Räbala Hansu eluraamatust ehk Kõige kurja juur. Jurjev: A. Saal, 1897, 58 lk.
Priiuse ja isamaa eest. Jutustus viimasest Buuri sõjast. Jurjev: K. Koppel, 1903, 196 lk.
Saare piiga. Tartu: Eesti Kirjanduse Selts, 1927, 193 lk.
Valge vanne ehk Viimased sultanilapsed. Tartu: G. Grenzstein, 1912, 495 lk. [Romaan.]
Valgus hommikust. Tartu: Odamees, 1929, 154 lk. [Romaan.]

Travel books
All-ilma saladused. Jaava tulemägedelt. Jurjev: K. Koppel, 1903, 50 lk.
Jaava. Tartu: G. Grenzstein, 1911, 24 lk.
Nägemata ilm ja suremata elu. Tallinn: Kiri, 1925, 72 lk.

Historical works
Liivimaa kaelakohus käesoleva aastasajaalguseni. Tartu: 1891.
Päris ja prii I. Eesti rahva pärisorjuse ajalugu (1215–1819). Rakvere: P. Erna, 1891, 128 lk. [E-raamat: 2015.]
Päris ja prii II. Eestlaste priiuse ajalugu algusest meie ajani (1819–1866). Rakvere: P. Erna, 1893, 142 lk. [E-raamat: 2015.]
Üleüldine isamaa ajalugu I. Rakvere: N. Erna, 1893, 268 lk.
Peatükk nõidusest. Tartu: G. Zirk, 1911, 31 lk.

Selected works
Valitud kirjatööde kogu 1. Tartu. Eesti Kirjanduse Selts, 1931, 282 lk.
Valitud kirjatööde kogu 2. Tartu. Eesti Kirjanduse Selts, 1926, 458 lk.
Valitud kirjatööde kogu 3. Tartu. Eesti Kirjanduse Selts, 1936, 439 lk.
Valitud kirjatööde kogu 4. Tartu. Eesti Kirjanduse Selts, 1927, 193 lk.
Valitud kirjatööde kogu 5. Tartu. Eesti Kirjanduse Selts, 1928, 290 lk.
Valitud kirjatööde kogu 6. Tartu. Eesti Kirjanduse Selts, 1929–1930, 345 lk.