Winner Of Arved Viirlaid Literary Award Announced

December 19, 2022

On December 15th, the first Arved Viirlaid Literary Award was presented during the Kreutzwald Days at the Estonian Literary Museum in Tartu. The winner is Lehte Hainsalu’s collection of poems titled “Valuvaba.”

The recipient of the award was chosen by the jury, which includes the following individuals: Tiina Kirss, Janika Kronberg, Sirje Olesk, Kaja Telmet, and Jaan Undusk. The award fund is funded by VEMU/Estonian Museum Canada. The amount awarded to the recipient is €1500.

VEMU established the literary award in honour of the 100th anniversary of Arved Viirlaid’s birth. The award is given out biennially on Viirlaid’s birthday, April 11th, to an outstanding fictional work that contains themes relating to Estonia and captures as well as conveys the essence of the country and its culture. Not in keeping with the timeline, the first award will be given out in December 2022. The initiator, Piret Noorhani, explains the necessity of the award with the following: “Arved Viirlaid is undoubtedly an important figure not only amongst EstonianCanadian authors but also in all of diaspora Estonian literature. The hope is that through the creation of the award, some of Viirlaid’s own works can be brought back to the forefront. It was even more of a necessity to put focus on contemporary authors, who value Estonian statehood, culture and heritage within their works. For them, it’s not just a word or superficial political concept, it’s something that they’ve personally experienced and is close to their hearts”.

Through her lengthy and fruitful career, delving into various genres with her literary works, Lehte Hainsalu has become an embodiment of the Estonian life force. She has contributed through words and actions to the re-independence of Estonia, her signature is on our constitution. Just as she lived with her mother tongue throughout the years of occupation and helped it ring, her latest collection of poems “Valuvaba” (Painless) aids us in persevering and finding strength throughout the pandemic and through these dark, dreary winter months. Kaja Telmet, a representative of EstonianCandian readers on the jury, explains the choice of the recipient of the award with the following: “Lehte Hainsalu’s simple verses and haikus about her lived experiences spoke to me and left a spark in my heart.” She refers to the poem “Pühal jõuluõhtul mälestan lahkunuid” (On the Holy Christmas Eve, Remembering Those Who Have Passed):

On the Holy Christmas Eve I remember those who have passed,

hundreds upon hundreds upon hundreds,

who I’ve walked alongside, who I’ve met for a short while,

who’ve left a spark in my heart.

An idea planted in my mind or a stone in my shoe,

I remember both with a smirk.