Permanent exhibition

‘Writer Oskar Luts: On the Fine Line between Life and Imagination’ permanent exhibition

Welcome to the home of Oskar Luts (1887-1953), a long-time citizen of Tartu, the favourite writer of many generations and the author of Kevade, a national mythical tale. The house with its mansard roof was built on Riia Street at the writer’s request in 1936 (to the designs of architect A. Matteus), and this is where he spent the last 17 years of his life.

In 1964, a house museum was opened here. A tour of the house In the hallway is a large book cabinet stretching through two floors: it holds only the writer’s books. During the many years of his productive literary career, Luts wrote novels, narratives, plays, memoirs and entertaining newspaper articles. As many as 69 of his works have been published in print, the majority several times over. The centre of the house is Luts’ study and bedroom, with views over the garden. The room is very simple: there is only a bed, a desk with stationery, some books and a bust of the playwright August Kitzberg on the mantelpiece. On the shelf is a German edition of Don Quixote by Cervantes in red binding, while on the desk is Collected Works by Gogol – both his all-time favourite authors, who helped him through many hardships, big and small.

Visitors are greeted by well-known iconic figures from Kevade and from other stories about the village of Paunvere. Across the room, a number of large puppets, representing various characters from the story Nukitsamees, are on display. All of the characters come together in a circle game with a red globe known from Kevade in the very centre. Back on the ground floor, visitors can take a look at the guest room where Luts was congratulated by his friends and colleagues on his 50 th birthday on 7 January 1937.

The writer’s hospitable wife Valentina and their son were painted by the painter Voldemar Kangro-Pool. Unique curtain poles, furniture fittings from the late 19 th century, a book cabinet, a piano, a gramophone with a horn, a radio, a weather station and paintings create an ideal atmosphere for conversation, imagining the writer’s voice or silently immersing oneself in one of his books.

Oskar Luts in Tartu

Oskar Luts lived in Tartu, a town of “quiet corners, bells ringing and wind blowing”, for more than 40 years – during his studies at school and university and while working at a dispensary. His literary career began with great success in 1912 with his first two books, Kevade and Kapsapea. In 1918, Tartu became home to his family as well. The real-life Oskar Luts lived at the same time as the legendary writer Oskar Luts. By the 1930s he was part and parcel of Tartu as much as the Emajõgi River, Toomemägi Hill or the then-existing Kivisild Bridge. He had detailed knowledge of the milieu in the centre of Tartu and its slums and used many people he knew as prototypes for his gallery of vivid characters. Even his best friends were from Tartu.

Theatre and film helped transform Luts’ characters into epic and iconic figures well known by all Estonians from their childhoods. In fact, two different sides can be distinguished in the writer’s literary work: melancholic and comic. His writing style, mixing real life with imagination, was novel at the time. Luts’ gift for storytelling and his nostalgic sentiment, warm humour, life-like characters and simple language have always attracted readers, young and old alike.

The ‘Writer Oskar Luts: On the Fine Line between Life and Imagination’ permanent exhibition forms part of the ‘Dorpat. Yuryev. Tartu’ exhibition of Tartu City Museum.