Ülo Mattheus has won important awards for his prose, and deserves to be regarded among the very best in Estonia. His debut collection, X maantee (Highway X, 1981), consisted of very fine-spun, sketchy but elaborate short stories. The title story of his next collection of brilliant short stories, Inimene Aspelund (Man Named Aspelund, 1987) about a master repairing and making musical instruments named Jöran Aspelund, who knows how to put the soul into his art, was made into the film Meister (Master) in 1989.
Born in Tallinn in 1956, Mattheus has worked in a metalworking plant, as a lighting engineer, editor, and radio journalist in Radio Free Europe. In 2004 he was honoured with the award of the Open Estonian Foundation for his work as a radio journalist. Now he is the press and information councillor of the Parliament of Estonia.
The first novel of Mattheus, Kuma (Glow, 1988) was a Scandinavian saga, a Viking legend in a weird way awakening in a seaside city with a film studio and steel factory, concentrating on the thoughts of Grandmother Sigrid and grandson Kanut. The atmosphere is film-like, as on a foggy day – actually of a year – and things happening in reality or unreality, while awaiting the twin brother of Kanut back from the seas. The story won the annual award of the literary monthly Looming.
His philosophical and mythical essay-novel of a Buddhist world view and Tibetan beliefs, Läheb ega peatu (Goes But Does Not Stop, 1996) won the annual award for prose of the Literature Foundation of the Cultural Endowment of Estonia. Mattheus has written of kindness and perfection, and in 2006 a novel of letters appeared under the title India armastus (The Love of India). The book consists of fragments from the letters written to his beloved from the foot of the Himalayas, the town of McLeodganj. It is a journey to India, to Tibet, and at the same time into the beliefs of Buddhism and love, dharma lessons, inside the thoughts of a man. The author is a pilgrim on the journey to the country, its language and culture, into understanding and learning the beliefs and to know himself, growing into deep love, with snowy mountain caps on the background. The place seems more wonderful to him than a wonderland, as he has written: a country of happy and peaceful religious people with magic attraction and breath. There are beautiful Buddhist legends, self-creating fairy-tales and tiny pieces of poetry with photographs of the author in the book. He has added the didactic comments explaining Buddhism. A European living three months in India, in a very different world, trying to share his spiritual quest – in fascination, desperation and love – and, moving with its kindness, it has something of the light blue air of the mountains.
As a prolific essayist, Mattheus has published his articles on historical, political, and cultural issues in a collection titled Ilusate asjade püha (A Holiday of Beautiful Things, 2010).

Text by Elle-Mari Talivee


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