Each country has its well-known and loved literary characters whose essence is deeply connected to the identity of a nation or region. This exhibition is about those characters, introducing the fictional world, authors and cultural surrounding of smaller European states. Estonia, Finland, Greece, Hungary and Luxembourg are represented with their literary characters. Learn about the project


Andres & Pearu

Man Duo

Andres and Pearu form the most legendary pair of characters in Estonian literature. The readers got acquainted with them in 1926 when the first part of A. H. Tammsaare’s five-part novel Truth and Justice was published.

The novel begins with the arrival of Andres and his wife Krõõt to the rather poor farm the man has bought – to Vargamäe. Pearu, the tough and spunky one, is their neighbour there. Andres is hardworking, stiff-necked and austere. He has come to Vargamäe to build up a flourishing farm. Chasing his dream he often forgets everybody near to him, everything that might offer a little joy and relaxation. Andres is planning his future and has no doubts about it – it should be as he has thought it would. Pearu is a gambler. He likes to spend time in the pub and enjoy himself. As he has good relationship with the manorial estate and far better lands, his life is considerably easier. Pearu enjoys being spiteful and does not care when he gets hurt himself – his main aim is to spoil things for Andres. The neighbours have lots of skirmishes, trouble and strife that often end in court. The fact that Pearu fancies Andres’s wife Krõõt does not make matters easier.

In Estonian culture Andres and Pearu symbolise

  • Strife and trouble between neighbours.
  • Antagonism between the urban and the rural – traditional values versus snobbishness.
  • Andres is a symbol of hard work. The familiar quote “Work hard and love will follow” came from Andres. Andres is the embodiment of rationality.
  • Pearu is a jester with a good heart but a spiteful nature. Pearu is the embodiment of irrationality.

Metaphorically Andres ja Krõõt are like the very first people who have come to Vargamäe to create a new world. Pearu is a diabolical figure trying to mess up the creation. Andres and Pearu have been compared to Faust and Mephistopheles. Andres has been given some features that make him resemble Abraham, the progenitor of the Jews, and James who struggled against God.


Anton Hansen-Tammsaare

Anton Hansen-Tammsaare

30 January 1878 – 1 March 1940

is the most famous Estonian writer and almost every Estonian knows his main novel – Truth and Justice. His real name was Anton Hansen-Tammsaare, his penname, was taken from his birthplace, his father’s farm was called Põhja-Tammsaare.

Tammsaare was born on 30 January 1878 in Albu parish. In Estonian history of culture the place is often referred to as Vargamäe, i.e. the stage of the first part of Truth and Justice.

Due to economic reasons but also for his ill health, Tammsaare’s education was disconnected. He was already 25 when he took his final exams at Narva gymnasium. Later, he learned six foreign languages so that he could read both fiction and non-fiction in them. Having worked as a journalist for a few years he was admitted to the law school of Tartu University. By that time his first stories and translations had been published. Quite unexpectedly in 1911 he was diagnosed having TB that in the first half of the 20th century was considered to be a very serious disease. More often than not, it was terminal then. He could not complete his final exams at the university and went to live at his brother’s, Jüri Hansen, in Koitjärve. He was given a clean bill of health only after an 18-month treatment trip to the Caucasus. Already in 1914 he had another serious health trouble – duodenal ulcer. The surgeon of Tartu University clinic told him before the operation that the success of these operations was about two to three percent only, still he had a narrow escape for the second time. After his operation he lived at his brother’s until the end of the First World War.

Tammsaare became a live classic already in 1926 when the first part of Truth and Justice was published. Albu parish erected a monument to the writer in front of the parish hall in 1936. It was the very first monument in Estonian history to a person still alive. Despite all his fame, recognition and many prizes, Tammsaare remained a recluse who avoided society life. Among friends he was talkative and charming but he never cared for public attention.

The writer died on 1 March 1940. In 1999 Tammsaare was elected to be a great figure of the century.

Vargamäe, the protoplace of the Truth and Justice I.

Right now there is a A. H. Tammsaare Museum in Vargamäe.


The early 20th century was the time of a new rise in Estonian culture and public life. In the mid-1920s several discussions about literature and the role of writers in the society took place. Various institutions were founded – the Estonian Writers’ Union (1922), the literary journal Looming (1923), the Estonian Cultural Endowment (1925). Realism started to oust the symbolist-romantic trend and the true-to-life movement demanded that the authors should be artistically mature to depict life as it was. New romanticism and individualism were not approved and writers were expected to participate in the struggle of life.

The late 1920s and the 1930s witnessed the rise in the ideas of national identity. The writers were supposed to emphasise positive and progressive work, constructive ideology, morality, optimism and idealism. This new trend was even more strongly opposed to the art for art’s sake and also various other roles of art, above all leftist ideas.

The first part of Truth and Justice published in 1926 appeared in a situation when realistic trend had just begun to dominate over new-romanticism. Although seemingly rural and realistic, Truth and Justice is not a classical pastoral novel. It deems with theological and ethical-moral points and twists. Poesy of irrationality clad in realism seems to have the key position in the novel.

Immediately after its publication the novel became a sort of cult text in Estonian literature. It dealt with deeply philosophical problems through familiar situations and characters and comprehensive historical and social context. Up to then there had been nothing of the kind in Estonian literature, nothing comprising so well the historical, philosophical and mundane.

Back to top