Mehis Heinsaar is one of the rising stars of recent Estonian literature. Though originally he aspired to become a long-distance runner, writing soon took over: he moved on to writing poetry, making his debut as a poet belonging to the literary group Erakkond (The Group of Hermits) in 1997. He seems to bewitch his audience: as early as 2001, when his first collection of short stories, Vanameeste näppaja (Snatcher of Old Men, 2001), appeared, he enjoyed unprecedented success amongst critics and was awarded several prestigious prizes. The book consists of sixteen short stories: Heinsaar is an ironic “traveller in rooms”, a suburban bohemian, whose ideal, according to his own admission is a normal middle-class existence following the principle of "seeing the world through the eyes of someone living his first day there".

Born in Tallinn in 1973, Heinsaar grew up in southern Estonia. He graduated from the University of Tartu in Estonian philology and has since then been a professional writer.

Heinsaar's dreamlike, imaginative stories can certainly be regarded as gems of intellectually oriented prose with plenty of room for play, and characterized as magic realism, obviously inspired by world literature, or as homage to surrealism. The passionate story-teller has the beautiful and romantic soul of a writer, longing for something and searching for it eternally, and fantasy is without doubt his strength.
The most striking feature of Heinsaar's work is when everyday life rubs up against myth and unusual occurrences in familiar settings. Miracles are quite commonplace in Heinsaar's prose. He provides the reader with details, but not in excess, he is succinct in his use of language, and his stories are light and airy, with the imaginary dimension introduced in realistic scenes, sometimes in an absurd or surrealistic way. For example: a butterfly man doing tricks at the circus vanishes and turns into a caterpillar; when a flat door is opened there is a hilly ridge filled with old men playing there, and so on. At times, reality is shot through with streaks of the unconscious, yet the texts are clear and have an ironic dimension to them. The settings can be just about anywhere and sometimes the stories have an intertextual reference. The cat, lapping up wine and dictating a story in the story Oliver Helvese lugu (Oliver Helves' Tale, 2001) is likely to be a relation of E.T.A. Hoffmann's cat Murri. And the story Kohtumine ajas (Encounter in Time, 2001) which is gaily hallucinatory and in which a smelly old man rapes a girl on a park bench, deluding himself that this is his childhood love, has the ring of Lolita about it. The critics claim that Heinsaar has been inspired by, among other things, the Old Testament and a number of Bulgakov's magical realist tales.

In Heinsaar's book Härra Pauli kroonikad (The Chronicles of Mr Paul, 2001) there are also unreal occurrences in everyday settings at the interface between ordinary time and space, but which obey hitherto unknown rules of physical dimensions. At the Academy of the Unknowing, run by Mr Paul, whose main building, lecture theatres and students consist of him himself, research is done into the mysteries of material. Heinsaar's work also tends to contain a respect for life of the kind found with Albert Schweitzer. His first novel, Artur Sandmani lugu (Artur Sandman´s Tale, 2005) is about a tram driver falling on the rails and hitting his head. After the accident he leads a dual life: apart from working he is submerged into his inner world, living the life he has not had, within a magic world of absurdity, funny circumstances and crazy characters.
The collection of miniatures and short stories, Ebatavaline ja ähvardav loodus (The Unusual and Threatening World, 2010), tells about an odd world full of odd things happening rather unexpectedly. It is full of the joy of playing – for example about a man becoming a fox, chasing the chicken of the woman living next door, and later the woman herself.


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