Juhan Liiv

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Juhan Liiv in his early years

Juhan Liiv (born April 18 July / April 30,  1864 greg. In Alatskivi ; † November 18 July / December 1,  1913 greg. In Kavastu-Koosa, today Luunja municipality , Tartu district ) was an Estonian poet and writer . He is the younger brother of the Estonian poet Jakob Liiv (1859–1938).

life and work

Juhan Liiv came from a very humble background. Still, his parents placed great emphasis on education. He first attended the village school in Naelavere and then the parish school of Kodavere . In 1886 he passed his Abitur at the prestigious Hugo-Treffner-Gymnasium in Tartu .

From 1885 Juhan Liiv worked for the Estonian cultural magazines Virulane , Sakala and Olevik . He wrote poems early on, but they found no echo. Only the story Vari ( The Shadow ) gave him an initial literary success. The dark story of the hero Villu, who is physically weak but mentally stronger, is often associated with Liiv's life.

From 1892 Liiv worked as a freelance writer. In 1894 Juhan Liiv had to seek medical treatment for an incipient mental illness ( paranoia ) from which he suffered severely until the end of his life.

In 1909 he met Friedebert Tuglas and the literary group “ Young Estonia ” ( Noor-Eesti ). During his lifetime, only the volume of poems Luuletused (1909) appeared, a collection of 495 poems that are now among the most famous in Estonian literature . Liiv's physical ailments, mental illness and loneliness are reflected in many of his poems. Others, on the other hand, are about love for Estonian homeland and nature.


  • Kümme lugu (1893)
  • Vari (1894, short story)
  • Luuletused (1909, 1910, 1919, 1926, poems)
  • Kogutud teosed I – VIII (1921–1935, Collected Works)
  • Valitud luuletused (1949, selected poems)
  • Teosed (1954, 1956, works)
  • Rukkivihud deer all (1964)
  • Kui tume veel kauaks ka sinu maa (1964)
  • Väike luuleraamat (1969)
  • Sinuga ja sinuta (1989)

German translations

Since 1911 (in an anthology by Axel Kallas ), German translations of Juhan Liiv's poems were repeatedly printed in magazines and anthologies, but it wasn't until 2019 that he published his first independent German-language book:

  • Snow flies, I sing. Selected poems. Edited by Jüri Talvet . Translated from Estonian by Sophie Reyer in collaboration with Jüri Talvet. Vienna: Löcker edition pen 2019. 107 pp.

Juhan Liiv Poetry Prize

Since 1965 (with interruptions from 1970–1983 by the Soviet occupation forces) the poetry prize named after him has been awarded in Alatskivi on April 30th, the birthday of Juhan Liiv. It is awarded for a single poem that appeared for the first time in the previous year.

Literature on the author

  • Ilmar Laaban : A poet for poor times, in: Trajekt 3 (1983), pp. 27-30.
  • Juhan Liiv (1864-1913). Bibliography. Koostajad Osvald Kivi, Andres Loorand, Ave Pill, Vaike Tosso. Tallinn: Teaduste Akadeemia Kirjastus 1999. 366 pp.
  • Jüri Talvet: Juhan Liivi luule. Monograafia. s. l .: Tänapäev 2012. 245 pp.
  • Jüri Talvet: The Universe of the Mind of a Poet: Juhan Liiv's Philosophy and Poetics, in: interlitteraria 16/1 (2011), pp. 103-122.
  • Jüri Talvet: The Lingering Journey of Poetry from "Peripheries" to "Centers": the Estonian Case of FR Kreutzwald's Epic '' Kalevipoeg '' (1861) and Juhan Liiv's (1864–1913) Lyrical Work, in: interlitteraria 17 (2012) , Pp. 93-107.
  • Tanar Kirs: Juhan Liivi käsitus luulekunstist, in: Methis 16 (2015), pp. 67–85 [p. 84–85 = English summary: Juhan Liiv's Comprehension of Poetics]

Web links

Commons : Juhan Liiv  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Eesti kirjanike leksikon. Koostanud Oskar Kruus yes Heino Puhvel. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat 2000, pp. 290-292.
  2. For individual references see Cornelius Hasselblatt : Estonian Literature in German Language 1784-2003. Bibliography of primary and secondary literature. Bremen: Hempen Verlag 2004, p. 89.