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Unt, Mati 1944-2005

Unt, Mati 1944-2005


Born January 1, 1944, in Estonia; died 2005, in Estonia. Education: Attended Tartu University.


Writer, playwright, director, and producer. Youth Theater, Tallinn, Estonia, director, scriptwriter, beginning 1981.


Völg (novella), Vilkogu kirjastus (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1966.

Suomenlahden takaa, W. Sölderström (Porvoo, Estonia), 1968.

Mattias ja Kristiina, Eesti Raamat (Tallinn, Estonia), 1974.

Sügisball (title means "The Autumn Ball: Scenes of City Life"), Perioodike (Tallinn, Estonia), 1985.

Valitud Teosed (selections), Eesti Raamat (Tallinn, Estonia), 1985.

Räägivad ja vaikivad, Eesti Raamat (Tallinn, Estonia), 1986.

Öös on asju, Eesti Raamat (Tallinn, Estonia), 1990; translation published as Things in the Night, Dalkey Archive Press (Normal, IL), 2006.

Ma ei olnud imelaps, Eesti Raamat (Tallinn, Estonia), 1990.

Doonori meelespea, Kupar (Tallinn, Estonia), 1990.

Tere, kollane kass (title means "Hello, Yellow Cat"), Kupar (Tallinn, Estonia), 1992.

Argimütoloogia sönastik, 1983-1993, Kupar (Tallinn, Estonia), 1993.

Vastne argimütoloogia, Vagabund (Tallinn, Estonia), 1996.

Brecht ilmub öösel, Kupar (Tallinn, Estonia), 1997.

Theatrum mundi, Ilmamaa (Tartu, Estonia), 2004.


Film versions of Unt's work include Vülg, (television screenplay), 1966, Surma hinda küsi surnutelt, 1977, Saja aasta pärast mais, 1986, Nöid, 1988, "Tühirand" (short story; title means "Empty"), 2006, and Sügisball, 2007.


Mati Unt grew up in the village of Linnamäe near the university town of Tartu, Estonia. He began writing at a young age, and was first published while still in school. His interests ranged from prose to theater, and he ultimately became both a novelist and playwright, as well as a director, producing the works of other noted playwrights in addition to his own works, in the capital city of Tallinn. He attended Tartu University, studying literature and journalism, and developed strong political and social beliefs that were reflected in all of his future writings. Unt became part of the Sixties Generation, those Estonian writers born in the 1940s and coming of age in the period before the Prague Spring of 1968. Prior to the spread of communism in the region, these writers and intellectuals strove to maintain the human aspects of socialism. Following the Soviet take over, this became impossible, but Estonia was less affected than other countries in Eastern Europe. Translations of American and European authors such as Faulkner, Salinger, Whitman, Camus, Kafka, and Borges became available in the 1960s and 70s, further influencing Unt and his peers.

Unt primarily worked as a director and producer for the Youth Theater in Tallinn starting in 1981, but he wrote over the greater part of his lifetime. His plays were heavily influenced by the Ancient Greek classics, Brecht, and Pirandelli. But his novels were his most influential writings, helping to bring about a new age in Estonian prose. He addressed controversial subjects, such as pregnancy out of wedlock, sexuality, and life under Soviet rule. His best-known novel, The Autumn Ball: Scenes of City Life, tells the story of six people living in an apartment building outside of Tallinn, whose lives intersect by the close of the novel. The individuals include a poet, an architect, a barber, and a woman and her son. Things in the Night is Unt's only other novel to have been translated into English, and it reflects his interest in science. The book begins with the narrator's account of his fascination with electricity, but goes on to tell of his life, his family, and the structure of Estonian society. The book is filled with Estonian literary tropes, such as references to werewolves, and to nature. Theo Schell-Lambert, writing for the Village Voice Online, noted that the narrative "flips the roles of subject and storyline, with electricity itself filling in for plot." A contributor for Kirkus Reviews called the work "clever but utterly lacking in structure, suggesting that seen-it-all intellectual ennui managed to beat capitalism to the westernmost nook of the Soviet Union." In a review for Booklist, Brendan Driscoll remarked: "Those willing to make the effort will be rewarded with a brilliant and poignant novel about nature and loss."



Booklist, February 15, 2006, Brendan Driscoll, review of Things in the Night, p. 46.

Guardian, April 8, 2006, Jerome de Groot, "Complex Communism," review of Things in the Night.

Kirkus Reviews, January 1, 2006, review of Things in the Night, p. 15.

Litanus Lithuanian Quarterly Journal of Arts and Sciences, summer, 1978, M. Kurrik, "Translation and Loss: Mati Unt's Doomsday."

Times (London, England), March 25, 2006, review of Things in the Night.


Estonian Literary Magazine Online, (November 15, 2006), Rutt Hinrkus and Janika Kronberg, "Short Outlines of Books by Estonian Authors."

Village Voice Online, (March 3, 2006), Theo Schell-Lambert, review of Things in the Night.

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