Juhan Smuul


Short stories



About Juhan Smuul


Juhan Smuul (born Johannes Schmuul, also used the pen name Juhan Schmuul until 1954, 18. II 1922 - 13. IV 1971) was an Estonian poet, prose writer and playwright.

Smuul was born on Muhu island, in Koguva village to a family of farmers who had been freed from serfdom already in 1532, which was at the time unprecedented in Estonia. From 1930-1936, he studied at Piiri primary school in Muhu, after this for a short while at Jäneda Agriculture School, which he did not finish due to falling ill with tuberculosis. This was the end of Smuul’s formal education. He spent the rest of his time mainly on his home island until he was drafted into the Red Army in 1941. At first, he was stationed at a labor battalion in the Ural Mountains, where he again fell ill, after which he was stationed to the reserve regiment of the Estonian Rifle Corps and spent the final years of the war in Moscow and Leningrad.

After the Second World War, Smuul played an important role in the cultural and political life of Estonia. From 1944-1945, he was deputy editor-in-chief of the culture newspaper Sirp ja Vasar, from 1946, he was the editor-in-chief of the youth magazine Pioneer and from 1947, he worked as a freelance writer. From 1953-1971, he was the chairman of the Estonian Writers’ Union. From 1951, he was a member of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union; from 1956-1958 and 1960-1966, a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Estonia; from 1955-1959, a deputy of the Supreme Soviet of the Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic (ESSR); from 1958-1966, a deputy of the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union. As a writer favored by the authorities, he could satisfy his passion for travel: in 1955, he took a herring drifter to the North Atlantic; from 1957-1959, he took part in the Soviet scientific expedition to the Antarctic; in 1959, he sailed the East Sea on a research vessel; in 1960, he visited Svalbard and as a tourist and member of Soviet culture delegations, he traveled to many European and African countries. He was the Merited Writer of the ESSR in 1955; in 1965, the People’s Writer of the ESSR in 1965, he received the Stalin Prize in 1952, the Lenin Prize in 1961, the Soviet Estonian State Prize in 1949, 1950 and 1959. He was married to translator Ita Saks, poet Debora Vaarandi and philologist and radio editor Ellen Noot. He died in Tallinn and is buried at Metsakalmistu cemetery.

Smuul’s development as a person and writer was influenced by his experience in the Second World War. Smuul started out as a poet, his poetry collections Karm noorus ('Harsh Youth', 1946) and Et õunapuud õitseksid ('May the Apple Trees Bloom', 1951) and his long poems Tormi Poeg ('Son of the Storm', 1947) and Järvesuu poiste brigaad ('The Boys’ Brigade of Järvesuu', 1948) gave him important standing in the post-war Estonian poetry scene. His devices were realistic and both his motifs as well as his folksy, spontaneous style were influenced by later folklore. Smuul depicted the life of the people living on the coast and the nature of the place, as well as the success of communist ideology in the collective consciousness, for example in the long poem Mina – kommunistlik noor ('I – Communist Youth'). For Stalin’s 70th birthday, he wrote the Poeem Stalinile ('Poem to Stalin', 1949) and after the dictator’s death, he penned the mourning poem Stalin. After becoming more removed from political topics, the lyric collections Mere ja taeva vahel ('Between the Sea and Heaven', 1959) and Merelaulud. Tormipoeg ('Songs of the Sea. Son of the Storm', 1961) were published.

Modern literary researchers tend to think that young Smuul’s belief in Stalinist communism was sincere. He became increasingly distant from it in mid-1950s when his works became more centered on prose and drama and the declarative propaganda focus receded, giving way to folksy, often humorous realism and broad humanist reflections. His short story collection Kirjad Sõgedate külast ('Letters from the Village of the Mad', 1955) used Smuul’s birthplace as subject-matter. In 1966, a film by the same name was screened (directed by Jüri Müür). His humorist story Muhulaste imelikud juhtumised Tallinna juubelilaulupeol ('The Strange Occurrences of Muhu People at the Tallinn Jubilee Song Festival', 1967) was very popular as well. His short prose collection Muhu monoloogid ('Monologues from Muhu', 1968) continues in the same vein. The comedy film Siin me oleme! ('Here We Are!', 1978) is based on its stories and is one of the most popular movies in Estonia, the catchphrases of which are still used to this day.

Smuul’s travelogue of the Antarctic called Jäine raamat ('Icy Book', 1958) has an important place among his works as similarly to his short prose, it also has colorful character descriptions in addition to contemplations on the life and fate of man. The travelogue is one of the most translated works of Estonian literature and has often been published together with Smuul’s other travelogue Jaapani meri, detsember ('Sea of Japan, December', 1963).

In his later years, Smuul became a successful playwright. His drama Lea (1959) was remarkable at its time because it depicted the religious, who were hiding a Soviet activist from the fascists, in a positive light. The plays Kihnu Jõnn ehk Metskapten ('Kihnu Jõnn or Forest Captain', 1964), a telling of the life story of a legendary 19th century captain from Kihnu island, and the monologue comedy Polkovniku lesk ehk Arstid ei tea midagi ('The Colonel’s Widow or Doctors Know Nothing', 1965) became particularly popular. These two plays are performed in Estonian theaters to this day and in modern times, remain Smuul’s most well-known works. The film Metskapten ('Forest Captain', 1971, directed by Kalju Komissarov) was based on Kihnu Jõnn. At the time, the film Keskpäevane praam ('Midday Ferry', 1967, directed by Kaljo Kiisk) based on Smuul’s script was popular as well.

The Muhu museum is situated in Juhan Smuul’s childhood farm on Muhu island. In 1990, a 3.5-meter sculpture was raised in his memory in Kadrioru park in Tallinn (sculptor Tõnu Maarand) that was relocated to Koguva village in Muhu in 2006. The Writers House in Tallinn also houses Smuul’s bas-relief. In Tallinn and Kuressaare, there are streets named after Juhan Smuul. The Estonian literature annual prize was also named after him from 1971-1990 (in 1995, it was renamed the Literature Endowment Annual Award).

S. V. (Translated by A. S.)

Books in Estonian

Juhan Schmuul, Karm noorus. Luuletusi 1943-1945. Tallinn: Ilukirjandus ja Kunst, 1946, 88 lk.
Juhan Schmuul, Tormi poeg. Poeem. Tallinn: Ilukirjandus ja Kunst, 1947, 118 lk.
Juhan Schmuul, Järvesuu poiste brigaad. Luuletusi ja poeeme 1946-48. Tallinn: Ilukirjandus ja Kunst, 1948, 120 lk.
Juhan Schmuul, Poeem Stalinile. Toimetanud Paul Rummo. Tallinn: Eesti Riiklik Kirjastus, 1949, 75 lk.
Juhan Schmuul, Et õunapuud õitseksid. Tallinn: Eesti Riiklik Kirjastus, 1951, 128 lk.
Juhan Schmuul, Mina - kommunistlik noor. Tallinn: Eesti Riiklik Kirjastus, 1953, 156 lk.
Juhan Schmuul, Luuletused, poeemid. Tallinn: Eesti Riiklik Kirjastus, 1953, 191 lk.
Mere ja taeva vahel. Luuletusi. Tallinn: Eesti Riiklik Kirjastus, 1959, 72 lk.
Merelaulud; Tormipoeg. Tallinn: Eesti Riiklik Kirjastus, 1961, 188 lk.
Luuletused ja poeemid. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1966, 222 lk.
Järvesuu poiste brigaad. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1975, 63 lk.
Juhan Smuul. Koostanud Ülo Tonts. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1976, 172 lk. [Sari 'Väike luuleraamat'.]

Kirjad Sõgedate külast. Tallinn: Eesti Riiklik Kirjastus, 1955, 224 lk. [Novellid. Järgnevad trükid: 1958, 1967, 1972, 1981, 1982, 1988.]
Muhulaste imelikud juhtumised Tallinna juubelilaulupeol; Üks Norra mere kiri. Tallinn: Eesti Riiklik Kirjastus, 1957, 126 lk. [Järgnevad trükid: 1963, 1967, 1972, 1981, 1989.]
Meremees Murka. Tallinn: Eesti Riiklik Kirjastus, 1958, 55 lk. [Järgnevad trükid: 1972, 1986, 1989, 2007.]
Muhu monoloogid; Polkovniku lesk. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1968, 135 lk. ['Muhu monoloogide' järgnevad trükid: 1972, 1981, 1982, 1982, 1989, 1998, 2007.]

Stage and screenplays
Atlandi ookean. Näidend 4 vaatuses. Tallinn: Eesti Riiklik Kirjastus, 1957, 67 lk. [Järgnevad trükid: 1972, 1990.]
Lea. Draama 3 vaatuses. Tallinn: Eesti Riiklik Kirjastus, 1960, 60 lk. [Järgnevad trükid: 1972, 1979, 1990, 2006.]
Kihnu Jõnn, ehk, Metskapten. Lavatükk lauludega. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1965, 136 lk. [Järgnevad trükid: 1972, 1979, 1990.]
Keskpäevane praam. Filmistsenaarium. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1968, 86 lk. [2. trükk: 1990.]
Muhu monoloogid; Polkovniku lesk. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1968, 135 lk. ['Polkovniku lese' järgnevad trükid: 1972, 1990.]
Enne kui saabuvad rebased (Pingviinide elu). Näitemäng kahes osas laulude, probleemide ja antistriptiisiga. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1969, 76 lk. [järgnevad trükid: 1972, 1990.]
Juhan Smuul, Kalju Komissarov, Metskapten. Režiistsenaarium. Tallinn: Tallinnfilm, 1971, 140 lk.

Jäine raamat. Antarktise-reisi päevik. Tallinn: Eesti Riiklik Kirjastus, 1959, 280 lk. [Järgnevad trükid: 1962, 1965, 1972, 1981, 1989.]
Jaapani meri, detsember. Tallinn: Eesti Riiklik Kirjastus, 1963, 144 lk. [Järgnevad trükid: 1965, 1972, 1981, 1989.]
Kui pole lennuilma. Kõned, artiklid, laastud. Tallinn: Eesti Riiklik Kirjastus, 1963, 191 lk.
Autobiograafia. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1982, 22 lk.

Selected works
Valus valgus. Luuletused, poeemid, näidendid
. Koostanud Juhan Smuul. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1972, 640 lk. [Sisaldab näidendeid 'Atlandi ookean', 'Lea', 'Kihnu Jõnn', 'Polkovniku lesk', 'Enne kui saabuvad rebased'.]
Hea meremeeste Hoidja. Proosa. Koostanud Juhan Smuul. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1972, 718 lk. [Sisu: 'Surmalaul', 'Kirjad sõgedate külast', 'Ookeani pale', 'Muhu monoloogid', 'Muhulaste imelikud juhtumised Tallinna juubelilaulupeol', 'Jäine raamat', 'Jaapani meri, detsember'. 2. trükk: 1981.]
Valik luulet ja proosat. Koostanud Ülo Tonts. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1982, 280 lk. [Sari 'Kooli kirjavara'. Sisu: valik luulest, novell 'Surmalaul', 'Kirjad Sõgedate külast', 'Muhu monoloogid', publitsistikast kirjapanekud 'Inimestest, raamatutest, merest', ankeedivastus ajakirjale 'Keel ja Kirjandus', 'Paar kildu sõjapäevilt', vastused ajalehe 'Noorte Hääl' lugejate küsimustele, 'Lenin minu elus', 'Aja tunnetus kirjanduses'.]

Collected works: Teosed 1986-1990
1. köide. Luuletused. Lühipoeemid. Koostanud ja järelsõna: Ülo Tonts. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1986, 287 lk.
2. köide. Poeemid. Koostanud, kommenteerinud ja järelsõna kirjutanud Ülo Tonts. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1987, 284 lk.
3. köide. Proosa 1. Koostanud ja järelsõna: Ülo Tonts. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1988, 445 lk. [Sisu: novell 'Kolm tundi', poolelijäänud romaan 'Endel Kangur', 'Kirjad Sõgedate külast'.]
4. köide. Proosa 2. Koostanud ja järelsõna: Ülo Tonts. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1989, 461 lk. [Sisu: 'Muhulaste imelikud juhtumised Tallinna juubelilaulupeol', 'Meremees Murka', 'Jäine raamat'.]
5. köide. Proosa 3. Koostanud ja järelsõna: Ülo Tonts. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1989, 303 lk. [Sisu: 'Surmalaul', 'Jaapani meri, detsember', 'Muhu monoloogid', poolelijäänud romaan 'Mõrv Rannu teemajas'.]
6. köide. Näidendid; Filmistsenaarium. Koostanud ja järelsõna Ülo Tonts. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1990, 463 lk. [Sisu: 'Atlandi ookean', 'Lea ', 'Kihnu Jõnn ehk Metskapten', 'Polkovniku lesk ehk Arstid ei tea midagi', 'Keskpäevane praam', 'Enne kui saabuvad rebased (Pingviinide elu)'.]
7. köide. Publitsistika. Koostanud ja järelsõna: Ülo Tonts. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1990, 333 lk.