Maimu Berg began her career as an author relatively late in life when she published Kirjutajad. Seisab üksi mäe peal (Writers. Standing Alone on the Hill, 1988) where she takes up the theme of 19th-century cultural history in a rather different, unusual aspect. In her more recent work, Berg has moved more towards the subtle observation of reality and direct perception. Her short stories are about fears, desires and attempts at self-realisation.
Born in 1945 in Tallinn, Maimu Berg has worked for a long time as the editor of a fashion periodical and has had columns in the Estonian, Finnish and German press. Berg has lived in Germany for a while. She is working as the cultural secretary of the Finnish Institute in Estonia. At the same time she is active in politics.
Berg captivates the reader with her ability to pick a stimulating subject to which she adds colourful episodes from Soviet life. Berg's major works are ones which cross the language boundary, namely Ma armastasin venelast (I Loved a Russian, 1994), an Estonian version of Lolita, and Ära (Away, 1999). In these works, which are set in Estonia during the last years of the Soviet Union, the author raises a subject that was taboo at the time: complex personal relations in a multiethnic society. In 1935 the classic of Estonian literature A. H. Tammsaare had published a novel Ma armastasin sakslast (I Loved a German). Instead of a "foreign" Baltic German overlord from the 19th century, in Berg´s split-level novel I Loved a Russian it is now a post-war Russian who dominates the scene. His animality and enigmatic soul are depicted without any attempt at prettifying, and from a new point of view, that of a 13-year-old girl who experiences her first sexual intimacies. Her love of the Russian radiologist also reflects her search for a lost father. But the novel ends in a betrayal of love and with the doctor being accused of rape. The second level of the novel, the "now" of the author, is a description of life in contemporary Germany and Estonia.
Berg's literary space, often filled with naturalist detail, reminds one of Baudrillard's comment that we live in a world full of swarming signs lacking any meaning. Sometimes the background dominates the protagonists, forming concentrated clusters of signs which can be interpreted both as the everyday life of lost times, and as postcolonial Estonian novels.
She has been a prolific literary critic and translator, mostly from Finnish. Maimu Berg has been honoured with the Aleksander Kurtna translation award in 2008 for her radical and creative translations of Finnish drama. She is the honorary member of the Union of Finnish Writers. Her interest in theatre has brought about two plays, and her own works have been translated into several languages.