Maarja Kangro

Maarja Kangro (b. 1973) is one of the most original and compelling contemporary Estonian writers. Her works, which have won numerous literary awards and have earned readers’ acclaim, provide a potent vehicle for a complex and distinctive take on life. They range from cynical social comedies to political reportage, intellectual exercises, and profound displays of compassion for physical suffering and bodily fragility.

Her short stories often address the escalation of social misunderstandings and intercultural prejudices, raising questions about injustice, solidarity, and the intricate relations between these phenomena. Kangro’s poetry is somewhat more metaphysical, revolving around ephemerality, desire, redemption, and the relation of high-minded intellectual ideas to mortal animalism. She has published five collections of poetry, three books of short stories, and a ’documentary novel’ titled Klaaslaps (The Glass Child, 2016). The latter is a frank and unsparing reportage of failed attempts at conception, as well as a personal meditation on death, trauma, and the ever-looming “abject” dimension of human life. The story is set in same timeframe as political turmoil in the Ukraine and intense public debates in Estonia.

Her work in all these genres is permeated by saturnine humour, which in turn is relieved by a lucid style and true sympathy for everything living (and even unliving). Maarja Kangro graduated from the University of Tartu in 1999, and has translated mainly poetry and philosophy into Estonian from the German (H. M. Enzensberger), Italian (G. Leopardi, V. Magrelli, G. Vattimo, G. Agamben) and English (P. Larkin). Although Kangro is based in Tallinn, she spends a great deal of her time traveling extensively.

Tuesday, 10 April

Maarja Kangro, Kārlis Vērdiņš and Tomas Venclova. Chaired by Ellen Hinsey

A dialogue between poets: Baltic and UK poets explore memory and history

Maarja Kangro (Estonia) has published five collections of poetry, revolving around themes of ephemerality, desire, and redemption. Kārlis Vērdiņš (Latvia) is the author of six collections of poetry for adults and children, containing work that is gentle, vivid and intimate as it explores ideas of coming to terms with one’s self. Tomas Venclova (Lithuania) is Professor Emeritus of Slavonic Literature at Yale University, and his poems have been translated into many languages. They will discuss the political and aesthetic dimension of memory and history, chaired by Ellen Hinsey.

Read more

Tuesday, 10 April

Maarja Kangro, Kārlis Vērdiņš, Romas Kinka and Christopher Moseley. Chaired by Daniel Hahn

Revealed or Lost in Translation: Literature from the Baltics

How much can be ‘lost’ or ‘revealed’ by translation? How does a translated work co-exist with the original? And how can we translate different genres such as poetry, folk songs, and dialects? Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian are very different languages, and their idiosyncrasies make them undeniably challenging to translate. In this session Latvian writer Kārlis Vērdiņš and Estonian writer Maarja Kangro discuss their experiences of translating and being translated. With Romas Kinka and Christopher Moseley, chaired by Daniel Hahn.

Read more

Wednesday, 11 April

Maarja Kangro and Avianti Armand. Chaired by Peggy Hughes

Poetry panel: Women whose names were erased

Throughout millennia, the names of women and the significant roles that have played, have often been expunged from the historical and mythological records—either that or their lives and deeds have been twisted to accord with a patriarchy-centrist point of view.  Indonesian poet Avianti Arman examines this phenomenon in her prize-winning collection of poetry, “Women Whose Names Were Erased.” In one poem she points out that before there was Eve there was another woman, who was created from dust at the same time as Adam and NOT later, from Adam’s rib, yet two now remains nameless. Estonia’s Maarja Kangro’s work gives voice to the forgotten and the lost; her poems are feats of empathy and imagination. In a joint-reading and discussion moderated by Peggy Hughes of the Writers’ Center Norwich, Avianti Armand explores this theme with her soulmate from half way around the world.

Read more

Friday, 13 April

Maarja Kangro and Inga Ābele. Chaired by Donna Moore

Story Café: Stories from the Baltic States

It’s not often we get to experience writers from Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, so we’re thrilled that, with support from the British Council, two writers from the Baltic States will be joining us to read from their work, talk about their own writing, and explore the position of women writers in their own countries. A not-to-be-missed Story Cafe Special.

Read more