Fifteen quotes by Anton Hansen Tammsaare

It’s not easy to find quotes by the Estonian author, Anton Hansen Tammsaare, written in English. Although he was a very intelligent man who could speak six languages – French, German, Finnish, Estonian, English and Russian – he only wrote his works in Estonian. For those of us who can’t speak Estonian but want to explore the works of Tammsaare, here are fifteen of Tammsaare’s most famous quotes taken from his novels, including Truth and Justice and I Loved a German.*

1. “Maybe we should never read in the morning what was written at night; morning and midnight, they either misunderstand each other or do not understand at all.”

(Võib-olla ei peaks kunagi hommikul seda lugema, mis südaöösel kirjutatud: hommik ja südaöö ei mõista teineteist või nad mõistavad võõriti.)

2. “If a man is married to the right woman, he will not fail to meet important deadlines.”

(Kui mehel on õige naine, siis teeb ta kõik õigel ajal.)

3. “While I am writing these lines, I believe quite strongly that I loved you before we met; only that I did not know that it was you whom I loved.”

(Ma usun neid ridu kirjutades üsna kindlasti, et ma armastasin Teid juba enne meie tutvumist, ainult et ma veel ei teadnud, et just Teie see olete, keda ma armastan.)

4. “A student must be sober because it is more difficult to learn than to teach.”

(Õpilane peab kaine olema, sest õppida on raskem kui õpetada.)

5. “Young people’s words can never be taken too seriously, because they are bad at reading people, especially when it’s about themselves.”

(Aga noorte inimeste sõnu ei või kuigi tõsiselt võtta, sest nemad on halvad inimesetundjad, eriti kui küsimuses on nad ise.)

6. “Wealth is closer to the truth than poverty.”

(Varandus seisab tõele lähemal kui vaesus.)

7. “Land and nation, as a wife, must be won over every day, lest they slip into another’s hands.”

(Maad ja rahvast, nagu naistki, peab iga päev uuesti võitma, kui ei taha, et nad libisevad mõne teise kätte.)

8. “A person may have more than twenty friends when he is not demanding or overly proud of himself.”

(Inimesel võib ka üle kahekümne sõbra olla, kui ta aga ise pole liig uhke ja nõudlik.)

9. “Nothing is impossible as soon as a person starts thinking seriously about it.”

(Miski pole võimatu, niipea kui inimene hakkab sellest kord tõsiselt mõtlema.)

10. “Everything I have learned can be reduced to this: I want to be what I am not.”

(Kõike, mida olen õppinud, tunnen ainult sel määral, et tahta olla see, mis ma ei ole.)

11. “Suffer with joy, young one, love would not come if there were no pain.”

(Kannata aga rõõmuga, noorik, ega armastus muidu tule, kui valu ei ole.)

12. “The right mistress’s voice is sweeter than another man’s rye.”

(Õige perenaise hääl on magusam kui teise mehe rukis.)

13. “The greatest fortune is love.”

(Suurim õnn on armastus.)

14. “Work hard and love will follow.”

(Tee tööd ja näe vaeva, siis tuleb armastus.)

15. “A poor man can see days of toil all around him.”

(Päevi saab vaene inimene igal pool näha.)

This is a lightly edited version of the article published on Tania Lestal’s blog, Estonia – Paradise of the North. * Please note this article was originally published on 24 June 2014.

7 thoughts on “Fifteen quotes by Anton Hansen Tammsaare”

  1. What a fantastic post to read amidst a busy day 🙂 ! Oh, I am old enough to have broken my reading teeth on ‘Tõde ja Õigus’ but, naturally, was hardly aware of all of the ‘sayings’ some of which ‘translate’ well and others one has to be an Estonian methinks to appreciate !!!! Thank you for bringing all this to our notice and I may just have a wild desire to repost once certain other matters are settled!!!! Oh – am an Estonian-Aussie too 😀 !!

  2. 14. is probably one of the most famous ones. However, it is a tricky one to quote out of context. Considering the story line in “Tõde ja Õigus”, the line becomes ironic by the end of the first book.

  3. Wonderful quotes! May I add my personal favorite (as well as my mother’s favorite): “Iga haritud inimene võib vähemalt ühe romaani kirjutada — romaani iseenesest.”
    /Anton Hansen Tammsaare, “Ma armastasin sakslast”, 1935/

    I translate into English below:
    “Every educated person can write at least one novel — the novel of one’s own life.” ~A. H. Tammsaare, “I Loved a German” (1935)

    Translated into Chinese below:
    “每個受過教育的人可以寫至少一本小說 : 自己一生的小說。”
    ~ 安東*漢森*譚沙瑞, “我曾經愛過一個德國人” (1935)

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