Agu Sisask

Agu Sisask

Agu Sisask
(b. 20. VIII 1940) is a translator, author and poet.

He was born in Tartu, the son of a clergyman. Sisask’s educational career began at Rõngu school; for one year he attended Elva secondary school. In 1958 he graduated from secondary school number 3 in Tartu. From 1961 to 1963 he studied at the Theological Institute of the Consistory of the Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church, where he attended lectures by Uku Masing and Elmar Salumaa and studied Latin, Hebrew and Greek. From 1963 to 1966 and 1971 to 1974 Sisask studied at the Oriental Institute of Leningrad State University, where he graduated in 1974 with a degree in Japanese language and history. From 1966 to 1971 he edited arts and literature programmes on Estonian television, and the newspaper Televisioon; from 1974 to 1982 he was assistant chairman of the National Audit Committee of the Estonian SSR; from 1982 to 1983 deputy editor-in-chief of the journal Looming, and from 1983 to 1994 editor-in-chief of the journal Loomingu Raamatukogu. From 1971 to 1989 he was a member of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Since 1994 Sisask has been a freelance literary practitioner. He has been a member of the Writers’ Union since 1995.

He has translated Japanese fiction into Estonian and written poetry, prose and memoirs about Japan. His collection of prose-poems, Mägi ja lehvik ('Mountain and fan'), which appeared in 1985, was inspired by the author’s personal contacts with the life and spirit of Japan. In this book is an Oriental sadness and delicacy of feeling, and attempt to penetrate the Japanese soul. The long poem Draakonilend ('The Flight of the Dragon', 1987) has an Oriental awareness of life, mixed with Estonian and Slavonic folklore and modern elements as well. His autobiographical book Kummalised seosed ('Strange Connections') is significantly occupied with contacts with the Japanese. Sisask has translated twelve novels from Japanese, including three by Kobo Abe and the novels ‘Voice of the Mountain’ and ‘A Thousand Cranes’ by Yasunari Kawabata. He has written substantial introductions to several of his own translations.

In addition to an honorary citation from the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in 2019 he was awarded the Japanese Imperial Order of the Rising Sun with golden and silver rays for introducing Japanese literature and for developing friendly relations between Japan and Estonia.

L. P. (Translated by C. M.)



Books in Estonian

Mägi ja lehvik. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1985, 55 lk.
Draakonilend. Poeem. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat, 1987, 46 lk.
Ja mu tähendamissõnaks on vabadus. Tallinn: Loomingu Raamatukogu, 1989, 30 lk.

Mõrv Jaapanis. Lühiromaan. Tallinn: Perioodika, 1994, 93 lk.
Yumiko. Tallinn: Pegasus, 2002, 126 lk.
Siin, Hüpoloonias. Tallinn: Hotger, 2003, 89 lk.

Kummalised seosed. Tallinn: Tänapäev, 2009, 232 lk.
Elust ja inimestest. Meenutusteraamat. Tallinn: Tormikiri, 2011, 110 lk.