Rein Raud

Writing has always been what I do. Both my parents have been freelance writers as long as I remember, and our house was also full of books. So I learned to read fairly early, and already in the kindergarten my teachers occasionally let me read to other children from a book so that they could have a moment of peace and quiet. Some of the books - the more interesting ones - on our home shelves were in foreign languages, mainly Finnish and German, as well as Hungarian, which my mother had learned at the university (studying Finno-Ugric philology). And our TV - as soon as we got one - spoke mostly Finnish. In spite of Soviet occupation, Finnish TV was visible in Estonia already during my childhood, and brought to us an understanding of what life in the real world was like.

So foreign languages were soon on the agenda. My parents had the foresight to put me in a school where English (not Russian) was the first foreign language, and Finnish followed soon after. During my high school times I studied languages as a hobby, and I still read in quite a few of them. This also meant that studying an European language at the university would have been a waste of time. So finally I ended up in St.Petersburg University (then Leningrad, of course), studying Japanese. It w
RR tõlkijate seminaril
as also in St.Petersburg that I met my wife, Rosita, then a student of puppetry and stage design from Lithuania, now an established scenographer and creative artist in Estonia, where we share our time between Tallinn and the seaside village of Käsmu. Not surprisingly, both our children, our son Juhan and daughter Laura, are also active in creative professions.

At the university, my coursework was dedicated to classical Japanese culture - as I then thought, visiting Japan would most likely remain impossible for me, because the services that the regime would have expected in return for such an opportunity were something that I could never imagine myself performing. But nobody, not even the Japanese themselves, could visit the Japan of the 10th-12th centuries. Some of my academic work is still dedicated to that period, even though now, of course, I visit contemporary Japan quite regularly.

My literary debut happened at a rather early age, in 1977. The Estonian Writers’ Union announced an event to which schoolchildren and students were encouraged to send their stories and poetry, and I submitted a few stories of my own. These were then discussed by older colleagues and critics, and, perhaps more importantly, we also had the possibility to get to know each other. A collection was published soon afterwards, and our informal meetings continued as well. No less than 5 people of the 13 selected youngsters grew up to be poets, authors of fiction or editors of literature. My first book of poetry was published soon afterwards, in 1981.

I have published four collections of poetry afterwards, the latest one of them in 2016, but fiction, essays and academic work have taken up more of my time. For more than 20 years, I taught Japanese studies at the University of Helsinki in Finland (where I also defended my doctorate), now Tallinn is my academic home. And during my more than 40 years of literary activity, I have published 8 novels, 3 collections of stories as well as translations, mainly from Classical Japanese, but also from Italian, Lithuanian and some shorter pieces from other languages (English, French, German, Classical Chinese, Finnish, Russian, Georgian) as well.

Here is my page on the Estonian Literature Centre website
An interview with me by Three Percent
An interview for the London Book Fair focus region presentation
Im Gespräch mit Susanne Führer, Deutschlandfunk Kultur
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