Urmas Vadi

Novels Urmas Vadi

Short stories


About Urmas Vadi


Urmas Vadi (born 28 February 1977) is a writer, radio presenter, scriptwriter and theatre director.

Vadi was born and attended school in Tartu and studied radio production at Tallinn Pedagogical University. He worked as an editor for the Estonian Radio, being the author, editor and presenter of several literature and culture broadcasts on the Vikerraadio channel. Vadi was a member of Tartu Young Authors’ Association (1997–2003) and is a member of the Estonian Writers’ Union from 2004.

Vadi has been active in literature since the mid-1990s. His first book, the self-published short story collection Kui klosetist kerkib kloaak (‘When the Sewer is Rising from the Loo’), appeared in 1996. In 2011, he received the Friedebert Tuglas Short Story Award for his story Kuidas me kõik reas niimoodi läheme (‘How All of Us Are Walking in a Row’), which was also published in 2014 in a collection with the same title. It stands out with the characteristic features of Vadi which are combination of reality and fiction, playing on the borders between actuality and fantasy. An essential theme throughout the collection is death. In this, like in other works, we can find a character called Urmas Vadi, along with whom there are a number of real persons who act in Vadi’s freaky world. So, for example, Vadi’s former teacher Rudolf Allabert acts in several stories. He is also the protagonist of the play Rudolf Allaberdi testament (‘Rudolf Allabert’s Will’), which premiered at Tartu New Theatre in 2012. It is part of Vadi’s trilogy of plays depicting persons, along with Peeter Volkonski viimane suudlus (‘Peeter Volkonski’s Last Kiss’, 2010, received the Literature Endowment Annual Award) and Rein Pakk otsib naist! (‘Rein Pakk is Looking for a Wife!’, 2011). Both were staged at Genialists’ Club in Tartu. Vadi has acquired a significant position as a playwright and director, being notable for bringing historical persons to the stage.

The scene of the short prose collection Elu mõttetusest (‘On the Senselessness of Life’, 2019) is set in the Village of Disillusioned People. It offers a cross-section of ordinary people’s life in present-day Estonia as chronicled by the first-person character. The collection Hing maanteeserval (‘A Soul Beside the Highway’, 2021) also provides a view of everyday life, but, at one moment, the freakishness typical of Vadi breaks in. Using his characteristic humour, the author deals with various themes from memory and relations to criticism.

The novel that won the Snaky Pen Prize, Kirjad tädi Annele (‘Letters to Aunt Anne’, 2010), is centred on the writer called Urmas Vadi who writes to his aunt Anne about his attempts to write a novel and to be a writer, adding to each letter excerpts from his novel or other texts that have interfered with writing the novel. The novel Tagasi Eestisse (‘Back to Estonia’, 2012) also includes a character called Vadi who begins to put down the story of a character called John. Another storyline running along with this is the extremely patriotic and nationalist novel of the exile Estonian writer Kaupo Männiste, ‘The Soldier of Freedom’. Tagasi Eestisse offers grotesque twists in plot, a mixture of reality and fiction and literary games, weighing among other themes the questions related to the Estonian mentality and identity. For this novel, Vadi received the Tallinn University Literary Prize and the title of the Writer of the Year (2013) which is awarded at the literature festival at Juhan Liiv Museum at Alatskivi.

The novel Ballettmeister (‘Choreographer’, 2019) concentrates on the revolutionary 1940s in the Republic of Estonia and the fate of President Konstantin Päts whom men disguised as folk dancers try to liberate. The multi-layered novel with comical and fairy-tale adventures offers an alternative view of Estonian history mixed with fantasy typical of Vadi. In 2020, the novel received the Virumaa Literary Prize.

As a radio journalist, Urmas Vadi is popular and productive at treating the themes of culture and literature. He has edited the cultural programmes of the Vikerraadio channel Kultuurikaja (‘Echo of Culture’), Inemise sisu (‘Human Perseverance’), Töövari (‘Job Shadow’) and Suveöö (‘Summer Night’) and literary programmes Litter (‘Puck’), Litter. Lapsepõlv ja kirjandus (‘Puck. Childhood and Literature’), Keda sina viimati lugesid? (‘Whom Did Your Read Last?’) and Kohustuslik kirjandus (‘Mandatory Literature’).

In addition to the above-mentioned awards, Vadi has also received the first prize of the Estonian Theatre Agency for the children’s play Varasta veel võõraid karusid (‘Don’t You Steal Other People’s Bears’), consolation prizes for Kadunud kosmoses (‘Lost in Outer Space’, 2003) and Balletmeister ja neli rahvavaenlast (‘Choreographer and Four Enemies of the People’, 2007), Estonian Television scriptwriters’ annual award for the film Kohtumine tundmatuga (‘Encounter with the Unknown’, 2005), the title of the Culture Carrier of Tartu (2008 and 2012), the Estonian Theatre Union’s original drama prize the for Ballettmeister (‘Choreographer’, 2010), the annual prize of Estonian Public Broadcasting (2010), Friedebert Tuglas Short Story Award for Auhind (‘Prize’, 2017). Vadi has also received the Friend of the Classic title issued by the Society of Tammsaare and Vilde’s Friends (2021), the scholarship Ela ja sära ('Live and Shine’, 2015), and he has been selected to receive the writer’s salary (2019–2021).

A. K. (Translated by I. A.)

Books in Estonian

Kirjad tädi Annele. Pärnu: Jumalikud Ilmutused, 2010, 240 lk [2. tr 2018]
Tagasi Eestisse. Pärnu-Saarde: Jumalikud Ilmutused, 2012, 279 lk [järgmised trükid: 2013, 2018]
Neverland: romaan inimestevahelistest suhetest. Tartumaa: Kolm Tarka, 2017, 347 lk
Balletmeister. Loomingu Raamatukogu nr 6-9. Tallinn: Kultuurileht, 2019, 193 lk

Short prose
Kui klosetist kerkib kloaak. Tartu: U. Vadi, 1996, 32 lk
Suur sekund. Tartu: Eesti Kostabi Selts, 1999, 59 lk
Unetute ralli. Tallinn: Tuum, 2002, 99 lk
Kuidas me kõik reas niimoodi läheme. Tallinn: Tuum, 2014, 231 lk
Elu mõttetusest. Tartu: Kolm Tarka, 2019, 172 lk
Hing maanteeserval. Tartu: Kolm Tarka, 2021, 209 lk

Lendav laev: kahevaatuseline näidend vene muinasjuttude alusel. Tallinn: U. Vadi, 2000, 95 lk
Kohtume trompetis! Elvis oli kapis!. Loomingu Raamatukogu nr 28. Tallinn: Kultuurileht, 2005, 94 lk
Kohtumine tundmatuga. Pärnu: Jumalikud Ilmutused, 2008, 311 lk
Peeter Volkonski viimane suudlus. Tartu: Tartu Uus Teater, 2011, 59 lk
Rein Pakk otsib naist!. Tartu: Tartu Uus Teater, 2012, 68 lk
Rudolf Allaberdi testament. Tartu: Tartu Uus Teater, 2012, 51 lk
Millest tekivad triibud? Tallinn: Eesti Draamateater, 2020, 112 lk
Tund enne päikesetõusu. Tallinn: Eesti Draamateater, 2022, 134 lk

Tartu Vaimu saladus!: eeltöö täispikale kunstilisele filmile. Tartu: Tartu Linnavalitsus, 2012, 28 lk