Indrek Koff’s 2010 “hysterical treatise” Eestluse elujõust (On the Energy of Estonian Essence), which teeters between poetry and prose, received Estonia’s most prestigious award for poetry, as well as two additional print runs. The work is exceptional: it is an assemblage of everyday Estonian sayings complemented by a few musings about the nature of Estonianness. Thus, it is somewhat of an experiment filled with playfulness, self-irony, seriousness, and theatricality; highlighting things that, for Estonians, are very recognizable and sometimes humorously embarrassing.
Koff primarily enjoys writing for children, and his book Kui ma oleksin vanaisa (If I Were a Grandpa, 2013) was nominated for the Cultural Endowment of Estonia’s Award for Children’s Literature. Still, his characteristically pithy writing for adult readers makes him one of the most intriguing authors on Estonia’s poetry scene today. He made his debut in 2006 with the unusual poetry collection Vana laul (An Old Song), which speaks simply and pleasantly about human lives through the theme of kisses.
Indrek Koff was born in Pärnu in 1975. He graduated from the University of Tartu in French language and literature, and has studied in the College of Translators and Interpreters in Paris (L’Ecole Superieure d’interpretes et de traducteurs, ESIT, France). He has taught at several Estonian universities and worked as a freelance translator since 1998. Koff has translated from the French and Portuguese into Estonian a number of highly important works by authors including Foucault, Maeterlinck, Houellebecq, Claude Lévi-Strauss, Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt, and others. He also collaborated on compiling a large French-Estonian-French dictionary. In 2016, he was given the French Order of Arts and Letters, which is bestowed on individuals for significant literary contributions that enrich the French cultural inheritance. Together with his wife – French-language teacher, translator, and playwright Eva Koff – he has also penned a children’s play.
A deep affection for the theater also echoes in Koff’s perennially multi-voiced poetry: Eestluse elujõust (which has even been translated into the Udmurt language) has additionally been made into a radio drama and has been performed on stage.