The Reception of Uku Masing’s Translations

Aile Tooming (Tallinn University)

Uku Masing (1909-1985), one of Estonia’s greatest religious poets and a theologian, was a polyglot and erudite in many fields.  From the 1940s he was one of the most influential Estonian intellectuals “in internal emigration”. Masing translated poetry, prose, and theological literature from many languages, distant cultures and times.  He became known as a translator in the 1930s; just before the beginning of the Soviet regime two very important Masing’s translations were published – Tagore’s Gitanjali and The Gardener –- and a new translation of the Bible (he had been one of the three translators.) During the 1940s and 1950s Masing was suppressed, although at that time he intensively worked on several translations (in addition to theological work and poetry writing.) Beginning from the 1960s several of his translations and some reviews of these were published. At the same time that covert reception of Masing’s works was constantly increasing, Masing was the authority for several young theologians and poets, influencing them by his translations alongside with his other works.  The real “(re)discovering” and (re)publishing of Masing’s works (among them, translations) began some years after his death in 1988 with the political liberation of Estonia, and it has been continuing up to the present day. This paper focuses on the public and covert reception of Masing’s translations in Estonia and also in exile and on the role and possible influence of his translations on Estonian culture.

Comments are closed.