Tarmo Teder’s world is considered naturalistic, rough and mean, but it is not in fact lacking in humour, profound tragedy, warmth, dreams and everything else that constitutes good literature where, next to black and white, there is space for many other colours, even if they are hard on the eye.
Teder, who is at present well into his forties, has achieved - or is about to achieve - his hour of fame – at what many would call the eleventh hour. Although Teder was first published back in 1990, he came to wider public attention in 2001 with the publication of his collection of short stories Jutte kambrist 27-1 (Stories from Cell 27–1). There was a break of six years after the publication in 1995 of both a voluminous collection of poetry Taevatule valgel (In the Light of the Sky) and a novel Kurat kargas pähe (Bedevilled), unique with its dissident attitude.
Although a collection of poetry entitled Angerjapõõsa varjud (Shadows of the Eel Bush) appeared in 2001, and a year earlier the Society of Estonian Film Journalists awarded him a prize for publishing and editing texts on audio-visual matters, he can be considered first and foremost a prose writer. Teder established his own particular style and subject matter in 2002 with the publication of a collection of pithy short stories, Pööningujutud (Attic Stories) – singled out for praise by several literary critics that year. Teder comes from Saaremaa Island (born there in 1958) and has been a cultural journalist interested especially in film criticism for the last fifteen years.

Under what influence is Teder’s richly scented literature born? In contemporary Estonia when gaps between the reality of society and people’s ideals appear that sometimes seem impossible to bridge, Estonian prose often opts for ideals and condemns reality. Often siding with the man on the street, this kind of prose simplifies reality, which is always more colourful and less clear than it appears to any given individual, even if the individual is well-known, for example, a writer.

Teder’s heroes are also marginal people: people or things from the fringes of society (the main hero of one story is a passport). The status and fate of his characters are best characterised by a frequent symbol in his stories – the attic. The attic is a place for storing rubbish, it is a suburban attic where rainwater laps over dead rats in rusty bathtubs. At the same time a beautiful and jarring view can be seen through the blurry window pane, and for those whom life has treated harshly the attic the closest they will come to heaven. In 2005 he got the prestigious Friedebert Tuglas Short Story Award for his short story Viimase idealisti pildid (Pictures of the Last Idealist, 2004). If writers were to be regionalized somehow, Teder is the one to be associated with a part of Tallinn called Kopli and its genius loci.
Although Teder has characterized himself more as a sprinter, he is still an author of three novels, of which Vanaisa tuletorn (Grandfather´s Lighthouse, 2010) is about a contemporary fishing village on the North Estonian seacoast. A man called Eerik Lauter is, after losing his job, living the life of an old-time fisherman dependent on the sea. He decides to build a wooden lighthouse in memory of his deceased wife. The author has with this novel immortalized an Estonian from Hiiumaa Island who erected a wooden Eiffel Tower in his yard.
Rather naturally realistic, even rough (he has been compared to Venedikt Erofeyev), Teder´s style is that of a poet – unexpectedly and undisguisedly beautiful.


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