In 2017, a story set on the coast of Lake Peipus won the Estonian Writers’ Union’s novel-writing competition. Serafima ja Bogdan (Serafima and Bogdan) tells of Estonia’s eastern shore and the communities scattered along it: Old Believers, who separated from the Russian Orthodox church in the 17th century and fled to the fringes of the former empire. The author has said that Serafima and Bogdan, which spans the period from the Second World War to the late 1980s, is a violent comedy about responsibility and revenge, which was inspired by the Norse sagas.

Vahur Afanasjev was born in Tartu in 1979. After graduating in economics from the University of Tartu, he worked in journalism, advertising, and as an EU official in Brussels. The young author began writing poems and lyrics in 1995, debuted in the Estonian literary journal Vikerkaar in 1998, and published his first poetry collection Kandiline maailm (Square World) in 2000. He became a member of the Estonian Writers’ Union in 2006. His satirical book about his experiences in the EU capital, Minu Brüssel (My Brussels, 2011), shared the annual Estonian travel-writing award. In 2015, Afanasjev’s poetry collection Tünsamäe Tigu (Tünsamäe Snail) won the Cultural Endowment of Estonia’s Award for Poetry.

Tünsamäe Snail and the novel Serafima and Bogdan are like two separate products of a singular lengthy writing process, reflecting the same landscape. In truth, Afanasjev enjoyed writing about all kinds of peripheral regions, critiquing society in a style that simultaneously conveyed the particular geographical surroundings. He did so ironically, but inarguably with affection and a deep sense of compassion. Afanasjev’s writing has been called socially critical magical realism with a dose of absurd humour. In his monumental award-winning novel Serafima and Bogdan, he managed to vividly conjure an absolutely unique community awaiting the day of reckoning on a narrow strip of land along Europe’s eastern limits.

In addition to writing prose, poetry, and lyrics, Afanasjev was involved in a number of music and film projects.

Vahur Afanasjev passed away on May 10, 2021. In October of the same year, he was posthumously awarded the Baltic Assembly Prize for Literature for his novel Serafima and Bogdan.


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