Arne Merilai

Associate Professor of Literary Theory, Senior Researcher

University of Tartu,


Viivi Luik (b. 1946) is one of the most treasured writers of contemporary Estonian literature. With her poetry she addresses the reader of her own mother-tongue from the depth of their history, language and culture, whereas her novels Seitsmes rahukevad (The Seventh Spring of Peace, 1985) and Ajaloo ilu (The Beauty of History, 1991) have been published in a number of foreign countries. Considering her growing intellectual presence and emerging poetics as a certain kind of ideological and aesthetical narrative, Luik’s work constitutes a representative model for a whole generation of authors in the Soviet Estonian literature. Marked out by occasionally controversial reception in literary criticism, her distinguished stereophonic, cool symbolism has moved from sincere nature lyrics towards sombre urban milieu and firm social resistance – towards real freedom of thought and feeling.

V. Luik’s first poem appeared in 1962; in 1965 her first collection of poetry Pilvede püha (Holiday of Clouds) was published. Since that time ten more collections have appeared: Taevaste tuul (Wind of the Skies, 1966), Lauludemüüja (Song Vendor, 1968), Hääl (Voice, 1968), Ole kus oled (Stay where You Are, 1971), Pildi sisse minek (Entering a Picture, 1973), Põliskevad (Perpetual Spring, 1975), Maapäälsed asjad (Earthly Matters, 1978), and Rängast rõõmust (Of Hard Joy, 1982). Also three books of selected verse together with the recent volume of collected verse, as well as three books of fiction, two volumes of essays – Inimese kapike (A Locker of One’s Own, 1998) and Kõne koolimaja haual (A Sermon at the Grave of Schoolhouse, 2006) –, several children’s books and two dramas: radio play Koera sünnipäev (Puppy’s Birthday, 1994) and a opera libretto Pilli hääl (The Sound of a Lyre, 2000). Many Estonian songwriters have always appreciated her lyrics, evident in dozens of music books and recordings.

            Kalev Kesküla has called the novel Seitsmes rahukevad a “gravedigger of old belles-lettres” and a “chronometer of new times”, which “invented the language”, later used by the Republic of Estonia (resp. Lennart Meri) in communicating with the world. The deep tone, frame and speech force of Viivi Luik’s poetic expression was to be employed by Emil Tode’s Piiririik (Border State, 1993), as well as by Ene Mihkelson’s Nime vaev (The Torment of the Name, 1994).

            Viivi Luik has meditated: „Only these things which are worded become real for me. At first someone has to say a WORD, when I am able to realize that a THING, which the word expresses, exists. [---] Indeed, the world is created with the help of Word. Literature creates and changes the world. [---] We become aware of that only after it has been expressed by someone.”

The paper discusses the phenomenon of poetic empowerishing of being, the inaugurative declarations, in terms of the rhetoric speech act theory, introduced in the study of Pragmapoetics by the author of this contribution, and the Heideggerian idea of Stiftung, as it reveals itself in the previous two passages as well as in the famous lines of the Viivi Luik’s poem „Take Me Under the Shelter of Your Leaves!”: „I long for the bosom of the rowan-tree, / to bury my head in its branches. / I long for the bosom of the rowan-tree, / to rest there would be good.”