Leelo Tungal and Tiia Toomet

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Venue: Estonian Writers’ Union (see on map)
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  • Conversation with writer
Original language: Estonian
Translated to: English
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Leelo Tungal

© Dmitri Kotjuh

Leelo Tungal (1947) is an Estonian writer whose contribution to Estonian culture is impossible to summarise in ten lines. A published author since the mid-1970s, Tungal has become a national treasure and her work transcends all social divisions. Tungal has published nearly a hundred books, mainly poetry and prose aimed at children and young people. Her poetry is characterised by a life-affirming mentality and an exceptional sense of humour. She has also written poetry for adults, radio plays, opera librettos, lyrics for musicals and songs, translations, primers and textbooks. In 1994, Leelo Tungal founded the magazine Hea Laps aimed at children and young people, and she worked as its editor-in-chief up until last year. While Tungal was a beloved writer for decades, she made a breakthrough to an even wider readership about ten years ago with her memoirs Seltsimees laps ja suured inimesed (Comrade Kid and the Grown-Ups, 2008), followed by Samet ja saepuru ehk Seltsimees laps ja kirjatähed (Velvet and Sawdust or Comrade Kid and the ABC, 2009) and Naisekäe puudutus ehk Seltsimees laps ja isa (A Woman’s Touch: Comrade Kid and Dad, 2018). These books are about Leelo’s childhood in Estonia groaning under the communist regime. In 2018, the film The Little Comrade by Monika Siimets was released, and it was voted the best film of the year. Tungal was awarded the national lifetime achievement award in 2019 for her remarkable creative activities. Leelo Tungal talks to writer Tiia Toomet.

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Tiia Toomet

Tiia Toomet (1947) is an Estonian prose writer, poet and children’s author. Her literary debut, the children’s poetry book Kuhu need värvid jäävad (Where Are These Colours, Eesti Raamat, 1975) was written with her husband Jaan Kaplinski. Her 1983 book Vana aja lood (Stories of Old Times, Eesti Raamat) is about the things used by our ancestors and through that, their everyday lives. It can be said that this focus has played a more significant role in Toomet’s life and Estonian culture – it was on her initiative that the Toy Museum was opened in Tartu in 1994, and Toomet was its first director for a long time. When it comes to her work for adults, her collection of short stories Isamaa suvi (The Summer of the Fatherland, Ilmamaa, 1997) is perhaps most notable, and its autobiographical titular story is one of the most significant in Estonian literature of the re-independence era. The historian Linda Kaljundi has called it one of the most striking records of the national reawakening period. The story is set in the summer of 1988 and includes the heritage protection movement, night song festivals, bringing out blue, black and white national flags, and other events of that intense summer. In 2009, Kajar Pruul compiled an anthology of short stories published from 1991-2008 and borrowed its title from Toomet’s story. Tiia Toomet will talk to writer Leelo Tungal.

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