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Saving Hell  

a parable of redemption as well as a powerful piece of social critique
– Märt Väljataga, Estonian Literature Centre

The Misadventures of the New Satan, now out in a reprinted edition, is a mythical tale by one of Estonia’s best-known writers – Anton Tammsaare, born Anton Hansen.

Tammsaare was born in 1878, and although he was the son of an Estonian farmer, he himself was not content with cultivating the earth. He was more interested in philosophy and psychology, but his education at the University of Tartu was cut short when he was diagnosed with tuberculosis and had to travel to a sanatorium in the Caucasus for treatment. After his recovery, Tammsaare published what is considered to be the single greatest masterpiece of Estonian literature: Tõde ja õigus, or Trust and Justice (1926–1933). This five-volume epic depicts Estonia’s development through the ages – from tsarist province to independent state. Each volume tells the story of one of man’s struggles: beginning with the struggle with the earth, then God, then society, then himself – and when it all ends, man has given in to resignation. It is highly philosophical and deals with some of the same questions that occupied the minds of Tammsaare’s contemporaries, such as Thomas Mann and John Galsworthy.

Although Tammsaare was a realist, he did not shy away from using allegorical fantasy in his writings. Most notably, this can be found in The Misadventures of the New Satan. Here, Tammsaare lets Satan be put on earth as the farmer Jürka. Satan is faced with a problem as God has come to the conclusion that humans should be spared the eternal damnation of hell since he suspects them to be incapable of salvation in the first place. In order to preserve his kingdom of death, Satan has to prove that a righteous life is possible for mere human beings. This satirical mythological novel, published in 1939, was the last book Tammsaare wrote before he died, and has proven to be an enduring classic of European literature.

Norvik Press first published this folkloric novel in 2009. The new 2018 edition is illustrated by a hauntingly beautiful cover image by Olenka Kotyk and is translated by Olga Shartze and Christopher Moseley.