Epos Kalevipoeg is the most translated Estonian work in the modern world, kind of an Estonian carte de visite. Almost 90 years after the publication of its first translation in Latvian, Neputns has published a new edition of the epic translated by Guntars Godins.
“This year, both Latvia and Estonia celebrate the centenary of their independent statehood. To translate the Estonian folk epic Kalevipoeg is my anniversary gift to our countries.”
Kalevipoeg is still an alive epic, which, more than any other literary work, has influenced Estonian national culture, literature, self-confidence and even historical processes. It has grown from the Estonian folk heritage, whose roots go to both Europe and ancient Finno-Ugric folklore. Based on the tradition of the Estonian folk song (regilaul), one of the Estonian poets of the 19th century national awakening period – Friedrich Reinhold Kreutzwald (1803-1882) – embedded folklore texts in the form of epic poetry. He first published the epic in 1862 by the name Kalewipoeg. Üks ennemuistene Eesti jut: Kaheskümnes laulus (“The Son of Kalev, One Eternal Estonian Story in Twenty Singings”) in the small Finnish town Kuopio for its own money.
In Estonia, Kalevipoeg has already had 17 editions, and it has been translated into nearly 20 world languages. In Latvian, fragments of the epic translated by poet Rainis were first published in 1904 in a periodical; its full translation by Elīna Zālīte under the title Kalevipoeg was published in 1929.
The new translation is supplemented by detailed explanations of ancient Estonian words and realias mentioned in the epic, as well as exhaustive interpreter’s comments.