Jaan Kross: Kolme katku vahel; Balthasar Russowi 1 (Betweeen Three Plagues: The Ropewalker)

The latest addition to my website is Jaan KrossKolme katku vahel; Balthasar Russowi 1 (Betweeen Three Plagues: The Ropewalker). This is the first in a series of four novels Kross wrote between 1970 and 1980, telling the tale of Balthasar Russow, an Estonian man who wrote a celebrated chronicle of Estonian history. This book is based on his life (1536-1600) and is set during a period of considerable upheaval in Estonian history. At the beginning of the novel, the country is part of Livonia (roughly modern-day Estonia and Latvia) under the rule of the Teutonic Order, i.e. Germans. Not surprisingly, the locals are not happy with this. During the course of the book the Russians, under Ivan the Terrible, invade and the Estonians call on the Swedes to help. We follow Balthasar’s schooling but he also manages to get involved in various events, from watching the eponymous rope-walking at the beginning of the book to the peasants’ revolt at the end, with a variety of other events in between. It is a very colourful and superbly well told tale by Kross. The parallels with 1970 Estonia – Russian invasion, nasty overlords – will not have been lost on his readers.

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