Written by our student Theodora Rouseva
I became familiar with the title of Ilmar Taska’s novel Pobeda 1946 last April, after the biggest Finnish daily newspaper Helsingin Sanomat listed his work among the most remarkable books of the year. Since then, I have been following the growing elation of his readers on social media. That was why the ad about the book presentation featuring Mr. Taska as a special guest was a very pleasant surprise for me.
The event took place on 9th November at the Finno-Ugric department of Universität Wien. It was organized by the Estonian Embassy in Austria, the Kommode Verlag publishing house and the Universität Wien. Its aim was to launch the novel’s German translation as well as to introduce Mr. Taska to Viennese audience. Other important guests included the ambassador of Estonia in Austria, Rein Oidekivi, and the editor of Kommode Verlag, Annette Berger. The event was hosted by Triinu Viilukas, a lecturer of Estonian language at Universität Wien.
Ilmar Taska is a writer, film and theater director, screenwriter and producer. He is also well- known for establishing the first private Estonian TV-channel, “channel 2” in the beginning of the 90s. Taska was born in the city of Kirov, then the USSR (present day Russia). His family was deported from Estonia during Stalin’s repressions. He went to the Moscow Film Institute (VGIK) and then studied at the Swedish Film Institute (Dramatiska Institutet) in Stockholm. He was granted a scholarship and furthered his studies in Hollywood, where he worked as a screenwriter and a producer. He directed the films Set Point (2004) and Thy Kingdom Come (2010), co-wrote and produced the film Back in the USSR (1992) and produced the films Candles in the Dark (1993) and Out of the Cold (1999). He has also directed plays in London (Power of Love, 2010), Los Angeles (Lavender Love, 2011) and Tallinn (One Summer Night in Sweden, 2012).
A book of Ilmar Taska’s short stories and his autobiographical novella Better than Life (Est. Parem kui elu, EPL Kirjastus, Tallinn) was published in Estonia in 2011. In 2016, his novel Pobeda 1946 (russ. победа ‘victory’, English title A Car Called Victory), based on a short story he wrote a few years earlier with the title Pobeda, became a bestseller and was praised by the critics. The German version was published this year by Kommode Verlag.
The evening was very pleasant and inspiring. Ilmar Taska shared some interesting facts about the novel’s main idea and characters, the process of writing and the research he did on historical events. He also shared some childhood memories, talked about his family, and explained how his background had influenced his work both in writing and filmmaking. He paid special attention to every question asked, which was deeply appreciated by the audience.
I found the presentation very stimulating and my curiosity about the novel grew so big, that I began reading the book once I got home. I was immediately immersed in the world seen through the little boy’s eyes. The story consists of skillfully described scenes, where named and anonymous characters are adapting to the new regime in Estonia after World War II. Their most personal thoughts give the reader a possibility to get familiar with their values, feelings and morality before judging them. There are many situations, which raise very strong ethical questions. The story is so thrilling to read, because it reveals how the border between good and evil, friends and family, seems to blend, whereas the new circumstances recreate new borders not only on the map, but also in peoples’ minds.