Mart Kivastik (born 1963) has written short stories and novels, essays, film scripts, plays and travel stories. His texts are just like a real living creature with its incomparable ability to leave a deep impression in the memory: they are dynamic, exact and concise. His humour can be rough or rather sad, but the texts are powerful and profound, strengthening the belief that the world is worth living in.

The atmosphere of his plays has been called Beckettesque, because of his solitary heroes and metaphysical anxiety, but this comparison is said to be misleading too, because in his plays Godot would be also on the stage, although as marginal as the others. Kivastik has received the Estonian Cultural Endowment’s annual drama award for plays.

He often writes the kind of nostalgic empirical truth that we all carry our childhood with us, e.g. in his play Õnne, Leena! (2000, Happy Birthday, Leena!), published also in the form of a short story in the collection Kurb raamat (Sad Book, 2008). It tells about thoughts, visions and people belonging to the past, but still so important for the present time.

Kivastik often writes about the ‘freezing artist’, a bohemian who does not fit well into everyday life - for the first time in his book Palun õnnelikuks (Make Me Happy, Please, 1996). That is one of his favourite topics, occurring in several variations through his later works. He treats them as friends.

His longer story Varblane (Sparrow, 1999), on the edge of science fiction, tells about a poet called Varblane, very lonely and quite unable to cope in society. Varblane works as a street cleaner and lives in a grotesque and absurd environment, with two dead men living under the floor of his neighbour, an old crone Donna. One of them is a Jew killed in a concentration camp, and the other his prison guard. After an awful strong storm the poet finds a mysterious little girl Anette, whose parents were blown away in the storm, and begins to take care of her. Finally the father of Anette finds her and takes his daughter home, and Varblane is alone and sad once more, with seven hundred and fifty-four unfinished letters from Anette, all saying only `Dear Varblane´. Sparrow has been compared to Roald Dahl because under its black humour the story is very humane and fairy-tale like, full of hope.

His Portraits of Freezing Artists tell about the picturesque and dramatic lives of Estonian artists of the last century, bringing forth the atmosphere of their time, consisting of sketchy scenes from their stays in Paris, Normandy, Norway, Germany and St. Petersburg, filled with poverty, hunger, inspiration, models and alcohol, over this always the endless search for perfection, new colours and ideas, their hope and desire to create something real and eternal, although few would understand that. The breath of it is revealed in laconic dialogues of young artists and writers thinking of Montparnasse, La Ruche artists´ residence, cafés and garrets, so hard to explain to those at home, with the longing, need and rage to create, forgetting time and the whole world.

Text by Elle-Mari Talivee


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