Toomas Nipernaadi

by: August Gailit

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Toomas Nipernaadi by August Gailit / ISBN 9781910213506 / 378-page paperback from Dedalus Books (UK) / Cover illustration by Juri Arrak

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Toomas Nipernaadi is one of the more peculiar works in the Estonian literary canon, and its eponymous male protagonist is without doubt one of the most exciting characters in the language. First of all he seems merely to be a man who travels from place to place charming people and telling stories, only to forget it all in the blink of an eye. But perhaps, more than anybody, it is precisely he who remembers. Perhaps all the hearts he touches will remain dear to him.
The idea of Toomas Nipernaadi is said to have come to Gailit when he heard a man’s echoing footsteps in a Berlin theatre, and those who wish to will hear this sound in the text of his novel. In many ways the protagonist can be seen as the writer’s alter ego. Those close to Gailit knew that beneath his self-confidence and brio, a tender and melancholy soul was hiding, which the reader will no doubt be able to recognise in Toomas Nipernaadi.

Since it was first published in 1928, the book has conquered one heart after another, and it will charm many coming generations. Besides other things, it captures the dream-like summer of Estonia: brief yet eternally recurring.

August Gailit (1891-1960) was a writer of exuberant imagination, a late neo-romanticist, whose entire output focuses on the external opposition of beauty and ugliness. His most influential work is Toomas Nipernaadi (1928). Toomas Nipernaadi has become both a classic figure and text in Estonia. A film adaptation entitled Nipernaadi and directed by Kaljo Kiisk was released in 1983. August Gailit's story Maiden of the North is featured in The Dedalus Book of Estonian literature. He emigrated to Sweden in 1944.