Berk Vaher seems to follow the principle that fiction is most rewarding when it resists quick understanding, and therefore his perception of the world often results in a most interesting collage of text. His recent works are perhaps not as revolutionary as earlier, but they have retained the very original appeal and fascination of the writer, his writing technique.

Born in 1975 in Kohtla-Järve, he belongs to the generation reaping the benefits of Estonia having regained its independence in 1991, and is a child of the transition period, with the liberty to write about everything and coming after those who were revolutionary in a previous sense, breaking the canon and introducing topics not possible in literature before, during the Soviet times.

Vaher studied English literature at the University of Tartu, graduating cum laude, and received his M. A. degree at the University of Warwick, England. His Ph.D. thesis about utopian exoticism in modern Western culture is pending. He belongs to the literary group Erakkond (The Group of Hermits) as one of its three founders; in 2002 he established an alternative literary magazine, Vihik (Exercise Book) and became its first editor. Vaher lectures on subcultures in the University of Tartu, and is a prolific essayist as well as a reviewer of literature and music. Vaher´s knowledge of music and DJing is often reflected in his writings, and his book Müümata naer (Unsold Laugh, 2006) contains conversations with the Estonian singer and musician Tõnis Mägi. Vaher stands for alternative Estonian literature, underground and experimental forms of writing, as a kind of intercessor of it, beyond the mainstream. He has been the chairman of the Tartu section of the Estonian Writers´ Union.

Vaher made his debut in 2000 with a collection of short stories titled Pilved asfaldile (Clouds to Pavement), introducing his very own style and way of story-telling, very fragmentary and based on dreaming, as he himself has explained his creative method. He provides textual cover versions and remixes, plays with intertextual reference, words, sentence structures, the graphic arrangement of passages of text, and different fonts. His expressions can overwhelm the reader quite suddenly and thoroughly and still leave the feeling of having to understand not the direct meaning, but something beyond it, like a crossword or puzzle for an aesthetic pleasure. His settings predominantly feature the present day and urban culture.

An author of short forms, collections of short stories and occasional poetry, Vaher´s up to now the only novel Lugulaul (The Epic Story, 2002) is said to have its own grammar. With a quick imagination, very vivid sketches seize the reader into a wildly rushing story of love, as the protagonist, a young man, Rein Reineke, having lost his beloved girl Elle Orav (Squirrel) to an illness – even though he robs a bank to save her – flees from the country and comes by chance to a place almost unreal, called Sancta Aeterna, meeting there the doppelganger of Elle: Squirrelle. The story has the mythical-mystical axis of an ancient epic ballad.

Text by Elle-Mari Talivee


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