Ilmar Sikemäe

Short stories Ilmar Sikemäe


Illmar Sikemäe (original name Helmut Bötker, 18./5. XII 1914 – 25. VII 1998) was a prose writer and commentator whose primary contribution to Estonian culture was the collection of sketches Kirjad Vargamäelt ('Letters from Vargamäe', 1962).

Sikemäe was born in Albu parish in Järvamaa county into a family of farm labourers. He was the nephew of Jakob Sikenberg, the prototype of Oru Pearu, the main antagonistic character in Anton Hansen Tammsaare’s classic novel sequence Tõde ja Õigus ('Truth and Justice'). This was the source of Sikemäe’s ability and opportunity to describe the scene of Tammsaare’s novel as a living reality and at the same time to bring out the links between life and literature.

Sikemäe attended primary school number 26 in Tallinn and in 1935 graduated from Gustav Adolf Gymnasium. After that he worked for a few years as an accountant and journalist. In 1941 he was mobilized into the Red Army. Sikemäe’s poems from the front date from the war years. From 1945 to 1990 he was a member of the CPSU. In the decades after the war Sikemäe worked in literary posts in several periodicals.

Having begun his literary career under various pen-names, Sikemäe earned recognition for mild yet consistently direct and truthful nature of his writing. Life-like realism dominates the short prose in the collections Teekond jätkub ('The Road Continues', 1951) and Näoga tuleviku poole ('Facing the Future', 1961). The critical assessment of conditions, Tolm ('Dust'), which appeared in the journal Looming in 1955, irritated Soviet officials and dogmatic critics. In 1969 Sikemäe published a selection of stories and fragments, Sada lugu ('A Hundred Stories'), and in 1980 Vasaku käe lood ('Left-handed Stories'). Sikemäe’s poems have been made into song lyrics. He was also active as a critic; he took issue on questions of the development of the Estonian language, and translated fiction from German.

L. P. (Translated by C. M.)


Books in Estonian

Teekond jätkub. jutustus. Tallinn: Eesti Riiklik Kirjastus, 1951, 196 lk.
Näoga tuleviku poole. Jutustusi. Tallinn: Eesti Riiklik Kirjastus, 1961, 303 lk.
Kirjad Vargamäelt. Olukirjeldused. Tallinn: Eesti Riiklik Kirjastus, 1962, 224 lk.
Selged silmad. Pajatus. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1967, 264 lk.
Sada lugu. Jutte ja laaste aastaist 1929–1969. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1969, 344 lk.
Selged silmad. Jutustus. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1984, 152 lk.
Vasaku käe lood. Jutustused. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1989, 156 lk.