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Juhan Liiv
Photo © Estonian Museum of Literature
Since the 1930s Juhan Liiv (1864-1913) has been recognized in Estonia as the epitome of its indigenous poetic genius, yet until very recently his work was almost unknown outside the Estonian language. Liiv came from a poor peasant family and never crossed a university’s threshold. During short periods he worked as a journalist in Tallinn, Viljandi, and Tartu, but he always did so reluctantly. In 1892, having decided to dedicate himself fully to literary creation, he left the newspaper Olevik, in Tartu, becoming in the impoverished conditions of his country its first professional writer, in the sense that he tried to earn his living exclusively by his writing. In 1893 Liiv fell mentally ill, suffering (from then until his death) nervous attacks and persecution mania. He died in December 1913, having contracted pneumonia after conductors (because he was destitute, and could not afford a ticket) pushed him off the Tartu-Valga train into a marsh.

Books by Juhan Liiv

Snow Drifts, I Sing: Selected Poems