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Professor Martens' Departure

3.74  ·  Rating details ·  192 ratings  ·  22 reviews
Widely read in Europe, the Estonian novelist Jaan Kross is considered one of the most important writers of the Baltic region, and is an often-named candidate for the Nobel Prize.

His new historical novel, Professor Martens’ Departure, is written in a classic elegiac style reminiscent of Giuseppe di Lampedusa’s The Leopard, and it evokes the complex world of czarist Russian
Paperback, 304 pages
Published May 1st 1995 by The New Press (first published 1984)
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Jim Fonseca
Jun 27, 2014 rated it really liked it
[Edited 3/18/21]
A great historical novel about a real person, Friedrich Martens (1845-1909), an Estonian-born Russian diplomat who was a key negotiator for the Russian Czar. For example, he helped negotiate the treaty ending the Russo-Japanese War with Teddy Roosevelt’s administration at Portsmouth, New Hampshire in 1905.


Martens was involved in establishing the World Court at The Hague and the International Red Cross organization.

The book is a fictionalized but very factual biography. Unlike a
How do you write about things that you love? More to the point how can you write about the books that you love and succeed in sharing with other readers what about them captivates and enriches you?

A book and its reader are a relationship and the resulting love can be as inexplicable to the onlooker as any that we see between apparently mismatched people. I once tried to persuade my mother to read The Blue Flower but saw the look in her eyes when I had got as far as explaining that the poet Nova
Mar 08, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1001-books
A portrait of an aging diplomat and civil servant could have been as dry as reading an EU Directive on Border Controls, but this is a subtle and engaging work as Professor Martens takes us on a journey through his life and into his soul. A real person, an Estonian diplomat in the service of Czarist Russia, Martens is a proud man of achievement, a perennial candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize, a master of the subtlety and precise composition of international treaties. At the turn of the 20th Cent ...more
Alan Teder
Confessions of a Diplomat
Review of the Estonian language Kuula24 mp3 CD audiobook edition (2011) of the original Estonian edition Professor Martensi ärasõit (1984)

Professor Friedrich Martens (1845 - 1909) tells all during his final train journey.

Draft Review in Progress

Photogragh of the envoys at the signing of the Treaty of Portsmouth 1905 to end the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905). Friedrich Martens is the 6th from the left in the front row. File Source: Wikipedia.
Mar 10, 2022 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1001-books
It's 1909 and Friedrich Martens (a real Estonian-born Russian statesman) is returning to Russia from a break in his native Estonia. We follow his thoughts and memories as he travels through Estonia on the train, approaching the Russian border.

A novel about a man who was famous for negotiating international treaties sounds like it might be dry, but this wasn't. He has long imaginary conversations with his wife about his emotional history; he thinks about a nephew who has been arrested for his par
A few chapters into this book, I was scrambling for Google. What I discovered is that this novel's protagonist, Professor Martens, was a real historical figure, an international law expert in the Russian court of the early 20th Century. He was an important figure in numerous important international treaty negotiations. This novel, set late in his life, takes us with him on a train trip from his small village toward a rendezvous with his wife and official meetings with other diplomats in St. Pete ...more
Jennifer W
Jul 15, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 1001-books
One of the better books on the 1001 books to read before you die list. It was well written. Though very little happens during the course of the story, I was always eager to get back to Professor Martens and his story. Professor Martens played an important part in Russia's history in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. His father, also Professor Martens played important roles some 80 years earlier. At times it was difficult to keep them apart as our professor Martens experiences flashbacks or ...more
Reason read: Reading 1001, Estonian literature, historical fiction.
The background for the story; 1909 is the year four years after the signing of the Portsmouth Treaty, after the Russo-Japanese War in which at one blow the Japanese defeated Russia's navy. Professor Friedrich Fromhold Martens, an Estonian native. Martens became a professor of international law. Shortly after his career began, he was asked to serve the Czarist regime as an expert in treaties -- asked to put together a complete hi
(-'. '-)
Jul 10, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Kirjeldab omal ajal oma ametis üle maailma tuntud eesti soost rahvusvahelise õiguse professori Friedrich Fromhold Martensi mõtteid ja mõningaid tegemisi Pärnust Valka sõites. Lugedes peatükki armuafäärist ühe kunstiüliõpilasega ja paari muud kohta tundus mulle uskumatu, kuidas Jaan Kross niimoodi üksikasjalikult Friedrichi vaatepunktist kirjutada suudab.
Jul 26, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Robert Varik
Jan 03, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Väga krossilik. Kui meeldisid "Keisri hull" ja "Paigallend" peaks seegi raamat väga meelt mööda olema. Tegevustik hõlmab eeskätt 19. sajandi teist poolt. ...more
May 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Hea raamat.
Sep 25, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I didn't like it completely, but I really enjoyed it in places. The world building is magnificent! ...more
Mar 30, 2022 added it
Shelves: botm2022
Read as BOTM March 2022
Mar 19, 2022 rated it it was amazing
I very much enjoyed Kross’ fictionisation of the life of an Estonian scholar, who rose from humble beginnings to become a preeminent international jurist, representing Russia at peace negotiations. As peace negotiations with Russia are of paramount interest right at this moment it was a fascinating look at what such negotiations involved up to 1909, when this book was set. Kross wrote his book in 1984, before the collapse of the Soviet Union and the evolvement of Estonia as an independent countr ...more
Raamat on väga mitmetahuline ja huvitav. Kindlasti plaanin ta mõne aasta pärast, kui ajaloolised teadmised on paremad, uuesti kätte võtta. Raamat on eesti soost professori ja maailmakuulsa rahvusvahelise õiguse teoreetiku surmaeelne monoloog. Ilmsiks tuleb nii mõnigi enesemüümine keisririigi huvides. Läbivaks teemaks on truudus riigile (Vene tsaaririigile siis) vs truudus iseendale. Küsimus, et kas mõnes asjas tuleks vilistada oma karjäärile ja külmadele kaalutlustele ja teha õiget asja hingerah ...more
Nancy Oakes
Feb 12, 2008 rated it really liked it
A very difficult book to read in the sense that there is so much detail that you absolutely must give this story your full attention, and not everything is spelled out for you in terms of the book's underlying message. It is one of those novels you really must think about while and after you're reading it. If, however, you want a very good work by an Estonian author, this is it. I've already ordered two more of Kross's books - he is a very gifted writer. I think my only criticism of this book wo ...more
Patrick Robitaille

*** 1/2

In this historical fiction, we follow the final journey of Friedrich Martens, Estonian international law specialist and diplomat of the late Czarist era, on the 7th June 1909 (Julian calendar) by train between Pärnu and St. Petersburg. He died suddenly at the Valga train station. During the trip from Pärnu to Valga, he reminisce about various events affecting his life, from his career successes and setbacks to his relationship with his wife, Kati, and his infidelities, also including th

Jul 27, 2012 rated it liked it

If Professor Martens’ Departure had to be made into a film , I would definitely resurrect Ingmar Bergman to direct it. The plot of this book is so Bergman-esque that images of his films kept popping in my head.

Professor F.Martens is returning to his native land of St. Petersburg from Estonia. On the lengthy train ride he reflects about his life , his affairs and his achievement. He also tries to see parallels between his life and another F. Martens who lived in Germany a century earlier ( the bo
Jul 04, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: russia
One of the most acclaimed Estonian novels of the twentieth century. A melancholy read, with layers of detail and intricate characterisations.

The story is sombre and slow-paced. Professor Martens, Estonian-born, a specialist in the minutiae of international law, is summoned out of retirement to consult with the ministry in tsarist St.-Petersburg. Outside his train window, the revolution of 1905 is in progress. And very slowly, very hesitantly, Martens comes to realise that he's devoted his life t
There are pundits who think Kross should be a Nobel laureate: they're right. This is a marvellous tale of life in the service of the Russian empire, and of being Estonian in that empire. I read it in Estonia, which added a piquancy, although it lacks the satirical edge of The Czar's Madman. ...more
Mart Lepanen
Jan 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Professor Martensi ärasõit'' further solidifies my belief that Jaan Kross is Estonia's greatest literary treasure. ...more
Drew Bell
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Jun 01, 2020
Tatjana JP
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Jan 30, 2022
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Jan 12, 2019
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Nov 20, 2016
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Jan 15, 2017
Ginta Elksne
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Mar 21, 2018
Subhajit Das
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Nov 27, 2019
Hans Lõugas
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Jan 26, 2021
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Reading 1001: Professor Martens Departure by Kross March BOTM 10 11 Apr 05, 2022 05:37PM  
Reading 1001: Professor Martens' Departure by Jaan Kross 8 19 Mar 29, 2022 03:49PM  
Reading the World: April 2021 Professor Marten 5 9 Apr 21, 2021 09:32PM  

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Estonia's best-known and most translated writer is Jaan Kross. He has been tipped for the Nobel Prize for Literature on several occasions for his novels, but did in fact start his literary career as a poet and translator of poetry. On his return from the labour camps and internal exile in Russia, where he spent the years 1946-1954 as a political prisoner, Kross renewed Estonian poetry, giving it n ...more

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