In 2014 Ilmar Taska’s novella "A Car Called Victory" (Pobeda, 2013) won the short story category of the prize organised by the only journal in Estonia dedicated solely to fiction, Looming. "A Car Called Victory" offers the reader a story about a little boy who is tricked by a security services agent into giving away the family secret about his father being in hiding: the child lives in a closed, secret world, and when he gets into a car which is parked in the street, new and still smelling of factory paint, he gets so carried away with his game that he forgets he has been forbidden from uttering a word about the situation at home. A magical world swallows up the child but then betrays him the very next moment: the painful sense of betrayal which shatters his illusions is reinforced by the powerful contrasts which the short novella throws up before the reader’s eyes – almost as if it were a short black and white film with a single colourful detail, the brand new Pobeda (in Russian: Victory) car. In 2016 Taska developed the story into a novel Pobeda 1946

Active in both the film and literary worlds, Taska was born in 1953 to a family which had been deported to Kirov. He graduated with a Masters degree from the Moscow Film Institute (VGIK), studied at the Swedish Film Institute (Dramatiska Institutet) in Stockholm and furthered his studies in Hollywood (Daniel Mann’s directing master class in Los Angeles). Taska has worked at Tallinnfilm, in Swedish television, the Hollywood film companies Fries Entertainment and Largo Entertainment and is now a consultant with the film sales and distribution company House of Film (Beverly Hills). In 1993 he established his own television company which was the first private national network in Estonia.

Since 2010 Taska has been active as a director at the London Courtyard theatre, West Hollywood Macha theatre, the Tallinn Russian Theatre and the Los Angeles Met Theatre. He has directed the full-length films Set Point (2004) and Thy Kingdom Come (2010), co-written and produced the film Back in the USSR (1992) and produced the films Candles in the Dark (1993) and Out of the Cold (1999).

Writing has captivated Taska his whole life: he won his first literary award at the age of 16, and from then until the publication of his short stories Taska was primarily a screenwriter. Taska’s short prose style is in turn engagingly filmic in character, defined by the clarity and visuality which are essential in film, by the capacity for conveying many subtle conceptual shades and by tension.   

In Taska’s collection of novellas and short stories Parem kui elu (Better than Life, 2011), for example, the physical surroundings play an interesting role: in the lengthier opening story, written about a Los Angeles film writer in the first person singular, the earthquake-prone city is just as unreliable, unpredictable, and brimming with glamourous opportunities as the film industry – and with it just as ruthless and illusory. But on the whole the works convey an unrestrainedly autobiographical, global picture: Estonia, Moscow, Stockholm, Paris, the Ural mountains frontier with Siberia. The short stories in the novella collection, written on plane flights, reflect the fates of different people which the author met in Hollywood, Moscow and elsewhere. The collection which appeared in 2014 in Swedish as Skönare an livet (More Beautiful than Life) brings together writing from the first novella collection and from Taska’s publications in literary magazines. Taska’s short stories have also been translated into English, Russian, Danish, Finnish, Bulgarian and Latvian.

 

 


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