Saturday, 21 March 2009

Peeter Puide


I have mentioned Peeter Puide on a couple of occasions as the Swedish translator of poetry by Elo Viiding. But he deserves his own entry.

Puide was born in Pärnu, on the west coast of Estonia in 1938. Like so many thousands of other Estonians, he fled the country with his parents to in 1944, when people still had the chance to leave, after the Germans had retreated and the Russians were coming. He spent some time in a Displaced Persons' Camp in Germany, a fate fairly common among Balts at the time, and arrived in Sweden the next year.

Although, he has been living in Sweden ever since, he is still on that most curious list of authors that Sweden maintains, the Immigrantinstitutet's list of "invandrarförfattare". (Ludicrously, even the Swedish novelist Mare Kandre [1962-2005] is on that same list, although she was born in Söderala, Sweden. Only one of her parents is foreign-born. But the Swedish authorities appear to like compiling lists of people with foreign connections.) Here is Peeter Puide's entry.

Here we read that Puide published one collection of poems and a thriller. But it is two middle books, both novels, that are most interesting.

"Till Bajkal, inte längre" (1983) is a complex novel involving, among other things, national mythologies and the lives and poetry of two Estonian poets, Betti Alver (1906-1989) and Uku Masing (1909-1985). The latter was also a theologian, living out his days under modest circumstances in the atheism of Soviet Estonia.

"Samuil Braschinskys försvunna vrede" (1997) has a title that puns the Swedish title of Heinrich Böll's "Katharina Blums försvunna heder". This documentary novel deals with the lives of Jews in Estonia during WWII and caused some controversy as it pointed the finger at Estonians for some of the atrocities. Nowadays, whilst the commission by the Finn Max Jakobson and the former Estonian President Lennart Meri arrived at somewhat different conclusions, it was still very brave for Puide to raise this subject back in the 1980s, when things regarding the Soviet and German occupations of Estonia were still seen in somewhat black-and-white terms.

Along with his father Edgar Puide, Peeter Puide translated Estonian author Mati Unt's first major novel, "Sügisball" (Höstbalen / Autumn Ball) into Swedish. That translation appeared in 1982. Peeter Puide has also translated Estonian poetry into Swedish by Viivi Luik, Tõnu Õnnepalu, Aare Pilv, Kristiina Ehin and, as mentioned on other threads here, Elo Viiding.

Read more about Peeter Puide on the Swedish blog of Enn Kokk (born 1937), another exile Estonian living in Sweden.

As Kokk explains, most curiously, Kokk and Puide, although both having lived for decades in Sweden, had never actually met one another until 2005. That same website also gives an insight into the life of Enn Kokk himself, how he was born in Estonia and ended up in Sweden.

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