Literary expert, poet, essayist, and translator Jüri Talvet’s poetry is particularly free, while at the same time erudite both in form and concept. It ranges from free verse through classical form and haiku; from tender love poetry through bitter poems about contemporary life. His poetry world can be a global literary expert’s complex space brimming with connections and references; a place, where answers are sought endlessly. This has been called the teacher’s “travel poetry”. The teacher does, however, search for truth in today’s real world, connecting and distinguishing his tiny Nordic homeland to and from the big wide world. One can perceive Talvet’s experience of temporally and lovingly appreciating this global space and evaluating it in a heartfelt, sometimes critical manner. His poetry is also chorusing and dreamy; a junction of the world that does not search for contrasts. The childlike, fresh voice of one still discovering the world is often important in this multi-voice poetry.
Jüri Talvet was born in 1945 in Pärnu. He graduated in English philology from the University of Tartu, joined the University faculty in 1974, and became a professor of world literature in 1992. Talvet defended his doctoral thesis on the classic Spanish picaresque novel Guzman de Alfarache at the University of Leningrad (St. Petersburg) in 1981. He is also Editor in Chief of the international literary studies magazine Interlitteraria.
Having already made his debut as a translator, Talvet’s firstpoetry collection Äratused (Awakenings) stood out in the stuffiness of the 1980s USSR with its fresh, emotional boldness. Talvet has been a member of the Estonian Writers’ Union since 1984; translated selections of his poetry have been published in English, Spanish, French, and other languages. The collection Estonian Elegy and Other Poems, 1981-2012, which was published in 2014, comprised the best of Talvet’s works and also added new ones. Estonian Elegy is dedicated to the 1994 catastrophe involving the ferry Estonia.
Talvet has translated globally-recognised Spanish-language literature into Estonian – both the Spanish classics (Quevedo, Calderón, R. Gómez de la Serna) and modern Latin American authors (García Márquez, Vargas Llosa, and others). Together with poet Harvey L. Hix, Talvet has translated poetry by the first great Estonian poet – Juhan Liiv – into English. Talvet has also written a monograph about Liiv as a global writer.
The brilliant, ruminating travel essays written by the teacher, who has travelled almost the entire world, interweave impressions from his journeys with the destinations’ cultures; comparing different worlds with his distant, homely Estonia. Talvet has won several prestigious awards both as a writer and a literary scholar.