The origins of Estonian literature are quite recent. The first known printed book in Estonian language is a translation of the Lutheran Catechism, published in 1525. The book was followed by other religious texts. The first Estonian grammar was printed in 1638. It was based on the language spoken in the Northern part of the Country.
Between 1857 and 1861 Reinholf Kreutzwald wrote “Kalevipoeg” (Son of Kalev). Deriving from the fusion of popular tales, the work deals with the story of a national hero and can be considered one of the most known works of Estonian literature. It was also the first Estonian literary work which was known abroad.
The poet Lydia Koidula (1843-1886), whose face is portraied on Estonian 100 Kr banknotes, played an important role in “patriotic” Estonian literature. She came from a nationalist family and thorough her poems she reflected the feelings of an emerging National pride.
Anton Hansen Tammsaare (1878-1940) is considered the best Estonian writer of all time. He is the author of the 5-volume epic novel Truth and Justice, written between 1926 and 1933. The novel is a real journey through Estonia during the period characterized by the changeover from Czarist domination and Indipendence.
The novelist and playwright Eduard Vilde (1865-1933) represented through his works the deep independent Estonian feeling. He was also a journalist and for this very reason he lived abroad, in Paris, in Berlin and in Moscow. He was the creator of the so called Critical Realism.
Jann Kross is undoubtedly one of the most important contemporary authors. Born in Tallinn in 1920, he was tipped for the Nobel Prize for Literature on several occasion. His works mainly deal with Soviet domination issues. The most known is The Czar's Madman, which was published in Italy by Garzanti in 1997. Ths work was translated in more than twenty languages. Kross remains Estonia's best known and most translated writer. His historical novels are focused on the relationship between Estonian and Russian people. Kross was even arrested by Soviet occupation authorities in 1946, who deported him to a Gulag camp in Siberia.
It is important to underline that instruction degree in Estonia is really high and population-publications relationship is one of the most remarkable of all Europe.
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