Satan has a problem: God has come to the conclusion that it is unfair to send souls to hell if they are fundamentally incapable of living a decent life on earth. If this is the case, then hell will be shut down, and the human race written off as an unfortunate mistake. Satan is given the chance to prove that human beings are capable of salvation – thus ensuring the survival of hell – if he agrees to live as a human being and demonstrate that it is possible to live a righteous life. St Peter suggests that life as a farmer might offer Satan the best chance of success, because of the catalogue of privations he will be forced to endure. And so Satan ends up back on earth, living as Jürka, a great bear of a man, the put-upon tenant of a run-down Estonian farm. His patience and good nature are sorely tested by the machinations of his scheming, unscrupulous landlord and the social and religious hypocrisy he encounters.
The Misadventures of the New Satan is the last novel by Estonia’s greatest twentieth-century writer, Anton Tammsaare (1876-1940), and it constitutes a fitting summation of the themes that occupied him throughout his writing: the search for truth and social justice, and the struggle against corruption and greed. Tammsaare combines a satire on the inequalities of rural life and absurdly rigid social attitudes with biblical themes, mythology, and bawdy folklore. The novel has proved to be an enduring classic of European literature.