Kaupmehe Guest House

Tallinn, Estonia

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Cultural value

Building Kaupmehe 8 was admited as relic of the past in 19.07.1995 by the edict nr.19/2, (RTL 1996, 119/120, 628) of Estonian Culture and education ministerium.

Building have two most important cultural values:

1) Kaupmehe 8 is one of the most original 19 century wooden building in Tallinn made by architect A. Uesson. Kaupmehe 8 had to remind of other wooden buildings located in Kadriorg Park.

2) In years 1934-44 lived and worked here Estonian famous writer August Gailit.

The literary work of August Gailit (1891 1960) has fascinated readers of different generations throughout the twentieth century. His style charms the reader, leaving no one untouched, and is immediately recognisable. It displays a burgeoning imagination, dash and verve, tenderness and love, and also enjoyable skill with words.
August Gailit began writing at an early age. At nineteen he published his first work, the short story When the Sun Sets (Kui päike loojub, 1910). From then on, he lived the life of a writer for half a century. Gailit’s last oeuvre was the trilogy Do You Remember, Dearest? (Kas mäletad, mu arm?, 1951 1959).
It has sometimes been ironically remarked that Gailit wrote one and the same novel throughout his life: the same style, similar characters and topics. This is by no means true   a writer with a wealthier imagination is hard to find. However, his entire output focuses on the eternal opposition of beauty and ugliness. This constitutes the compositional axis that carries Gailit’s works, from the first pages to the last. On the second page of his first book, Gailit writes in the vein of a good student essay: “Clouds divide the world in two: here is the land and up there   the sky. Here oppressive darkness, there eternal light; here pain and tears, there silence and happiness; here screaming for light, there the quiet murmur of the gods; here boredom, there the sun.”
The same Gailit, years later, borrows the poetic title to his swansong, Do You Remember, Dearest? from none other than Baudelaire, who in his famous poem Une Carogne, writes: “Do you remember, dearest, what appalled our senses/ that mild summer morning: an obscene and vile corpse in its flinty bed/ was lying in the curving path.”
For Gailit, beauty and ugliness are just as important as truth and justice are for Tammsaare. This is Gailit’s philosophy of life, concisely summarised in his novel The Flaming Heart (Leegitsev sõda, 1945):
“As I have said   the contemporary world does not recognise good or bad, black or white; there is only man with a thousand faces, who wants to live and breathe. We regard man together with the whole complex of his passions. We don’t say that this is good and that is bad, this is allowed and that is forbidden, this is beautiful and that is ugly. We know that good is inseparable from evil, and even the greatest beauty carries with it ugliness and the stink of rotting from the day it is born.”

August Gailit belonged to the famous literary group Siuru, together with Friedebert Tuglas, Artur Adson, Marie Under, Johannes Semper and Henrik Visnapuu. The Siuru period was remarkably prolific for Gailit. These years shaped the young inexperienced writer into a well known wordsmith. He published the collection of short stories, The Devil’s Merry Go Round (Saatana karussell, 1917), the novel Fairyland (Muinasmaa, 1918), the short story The Death of August Gailit (August Gailiti surm, 1919), the satire collection Clowns and Fauns (Klounid ja faunid, 1919), the collection of short stories Knights Errant (Rändavad rüütlid, 1919), the novel Purple Death (Purpurne surm, 1924) and Idiot (Idioot, 1924) which consisted of two short stories.
Gailit’s work of that period suffered the impact of the grim era, i.e. the First World War and the years that followed. Or, sticking to the writer’s main axis of beauty versus ugliness; ugliness transformed into the aesthetic clearly prevailed. What, then, did Gailit write about? He wrote about the Devil who lures people to the path of sin and turns a convent into the vilest of brothels; he wrote about a pious nun who after sinning with the Devil, gives birth to five blue piglets. In his novel Purple Death, the mysterious disease destroys only men. The women remain alone and lose their meaning in life. The few surviving men perish amidst frenzied hordes of women who wage bloody battles to get them. The dreadful disease destroys whole nations. The world is doomed.


Such limitless fantasy did not merely arise from Gailit’s desire to irritate the petit bourgeois public and various moralisers. Considering what real life was throwing up, these flights of fancy did not seem particularly outrageous. In the turmoil of World War I, the meaning of life was lost, and people lived for the present alone. Gailit was simply recording surrounding reality, adding his own stylistic colouring to it.
In the writer’s generally gloomy early work, one brighter spot vividly stands out. It was the novel Fairyland (1918), the story about the adventures of two bohemians, the writer Morin and the painter Bruno Erms in summertime Estonia, full of joie de vivre. The romantic story is full of love and passion, alternating with the beauty of summer nature and descriptions of village life, accompanied by Gailitesque humour.
From Fairyland onwards, the reader gets an increasingly vivid picture of Gailit’s perception of nature. Romantic descriptions (sunsets, lakes, meadows) burst to life in Gailit’s text. To express the inexpressible in words is a great skill. The writer does not employ lavish poetic imagery, but nevertheless evokes lively pictures in the reader’s mind.
“With the approach of autumn, the sun grew tired and sank lower each day. The sky was blue and lucid, solitary scraps of cloud roamed like silver scaled roach in a blue lake. The departing storks screeched above the reddish woods. The birch trees yellowed, maples turned red, the wind stripped trees and bushes bare. Woods and paths were covered with colourful leaves like the motley hide of a tiger. Rowanberry clusters flared red, the leaves on the oak trees turned black and withered.”

Totas

Toomas Nipernaadi

Toomas Nipernaadi is widely regarded as August Gailit’s most personal work of fiction. It is the story of a man who leaves town in early spring, at the time when the ice starts to melt, and sets off to wander around, from one village to the next. Wherever he turns up, adventures and trouble ensue. Nipernaadi works as a rafter and a pastor, drains swampland, becomes the master of a farm. He spins wondrous (fairy) tales to the village maidens who then all fall in love with him.
Toomas Nipernaadi is a phenomenon in Estonian culture. Its heyday was just after its publication. Reviews abounded and critics were unanimously enthusiastic. Despite universal praise, readers interpreted the book in quite different ways. For some, the joyful motto of the book served as a key to understanding the whole thing: A sailor came from Rasina, hey ho, hey ho. Others were taken with the more serious side of the novel. Nipernaadi’s adventures were by no means infinite merrymaking, but rather slipped constantly into tragicomedy. Nipernaadi was one of the first works in Estonian literature that was translated into many languages. To date, the novel has been published in nine: German, Dutch, Czech, Lithuanian, Polish, Finnish, Latvian, French and Russian.
The first was the German translation in 1931 issued by the Ullstein publishing house. The German critics’ reaction was lively and extremely positive (the critics included Hermann Hesse and Hans Fallada). Such success understandably increased the novel’s popularity at home even further and raised great hopes in the author: the Nobel prize and a Hollywood film.
Following Toomas Nipernaadi’s wanderings through spring, summer and autumn, the reader perceives a mythical model of life in the novel: the sequence of seasons, repetition, the closed circle, the cycle of life. And in that circle is Toomas Nipernaadi   the eternal wanderer. What gives Nipernaadi the aura of a mythical character is his direct contact with nature. Nature is a significant component of the novel which, through Gailit’s masterful descriptions, acquires the status of a character in its own right. Not by chance was the German edition entitled Nippernaht und die Jahreszeiten, stressing the importance of nature. The whole composition relies on the seasons.