This book won the highest literary award in the Soviet Union, the Lenin Prize. It is an amazing, fascinating book. It plunges you into a new world of people, their feelings and views about life. It makes you remember all the travel books you have read and yet does not resemble any of them. Written as a diary, it is an authentic document speaking of living people and giving their names and the story of their life. Is this journalism? It is, and of a very high class, too. It has been written by a journalist and an artist, and reading it you will agree that it is a work of art, a book of reflections, and an unusual narrative.
Juhan Smuul takes you with him on a voyage in the Kooperatsia, and with him you get to know new people, read books together with him, ponder over what you have read, struggle through the first act of a play that he has begun, and share the joys and sorrows of members of an Antarctic expedition.
There are no principal heroes. The author is surrounded by many interesting people and speaks briefly of every meeting, of every contact, sketching astonishingly faithful portraits. We have just said that there are no principal heroes. But on second thoughts, there is one, the author himself – the Estonian poet and playwright Juhan Smuul. His humanity dominates the book's intonation, its manly humour and lyrical warmth. His keen, tireless and honest search for truth infects the reader. His eager and shrewd studies lend this book its colour.
Juhan Smuul uses the time given him by a long voyage as a gift and generously tells us not only of his many impressions but also of his thoughts and meditations, shared by the people of his time, about the meaning of motherland, love, science, literature, films and, chiefly, about man, his inner duty and his moral responsibility.
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