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Seitsmes rahukevad by Viivi Luik

Seitsmes rahukevad (1985)

by Viivi Luik

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"Seitmes rahukevad" (The Seventh Spring of Peace) is writer Viivi Luik's (1946-) biographical fiction about her rural growing up in the early post-World War II years of Soviet-occupied Estonia. It spans a period from the autumn of 1950 to the spring of 1951 from the point of view of a young girl documenting her various interactions with playmates and family and other adults. In the book she seems to be 8-years-old, although the author would have been only 4 at the actual time. Very occasionally the perspective jumps to the author writing the book in 1982-1983 and commenting on the action from the perspective of her later years, but mainly the perspective is from the young girl.

The extraordinary element of this book is the honesty and exceptional clarity of the little girl's feelings and actions that are captured. She is often not even a likeable character and is more of a little whinny brat making various kinds of trouble. But the honesty that rings through is totally captivating. This is combined with Luik's often poetic imagery where entire pages can be read as if each paragraph was a separate poem.

Underlying everything is the stress of living in a world of a hand-to-mouth existence where activities such as berry-gathering or mushrooming aren't fun pastimes (although they might be for a child) but basic survival tools for the adults. There are some great characters here such as the cranky grandmother, the johnny-appleseed absentee father and a rural librarian who helps to edge the little girl forward in her reading and, presumably, eventually to her later life as a writer. The main drama is the collectivization of farms under the incompetent Soviet system which is feared by the populace but is mercilessly mocked in a childhood game where little girls play at dragging the physical individual farm buildings together into a collective "kolkhoz".

This novel was first published in 1985 likely through the aid of the "glasnost" (openness) era that began then during the Soviet Union and that allowed for criticism with reduced penalties and censorship. I didn't get around to reading it until 30 years later but am already eager to read it again. It is that sort of a rare thing.

Viivi Luik's "Seventh Spring of Peace" has been translated into about a dozen languages, although not into English. I read it in the original 1985 Estonian edition but it has had 2 Estonian reprints since then. Information on translation editions of the book can be found at http://www.estlit.ee/elis/?cmd=book&id=39995 and a sample English language excerpt (where the girl first meets the librarian Ilves) is at http://www.estlit.ee/elis/?cmd=writer&id=85322&txt=09863 ( )
  alanteder | Sep 3, 2014 |
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