Jan Kaus

Poems Jan Kaus


Short stories

Essays and articles

About Jan Kaus


Jan Kaus (b. 22. I 1971) is a poet, prose writer, translator and essayist.

He was born in Aegviidu, and studied in Tallinn: teacher training at the Tallinn Pedagogical University and philosophy at the Estonian Institute of the Humanities. His multiple talents have been connected to various fields and positions. Among other jobs he has worked as a lecturer, a copywriter, an editor on the newspaper Sirp, chairman of the Estonian Writers’ Union from 2004 to 2007 (a member since 2003); he was one of the founders and organizers of the international Head Read literature festival. He has been active in Jan Helsing and several other bands, has taken part in art exhibitions, illustrated books, written libretti, translated, and performed as an actor.

Initially he came into the cultural arena in the sphere of meta-literature: in the mid-nineties he published articles and essays about literature, philosophy, art, theatre, films and so on. He achieved wider recognition with fiction later on. As a versatile author he has published both poetry and prose; what is closest to him is the short form, in particular mini-prose (‘miniatuur’ in Estonian). The stories in his debut prose collection, Üle ja ümber (‘Over and Around’, 2000) display a social sensitivity and a philosophical attitude that marks out Kaus’ work as a whole. The time and space of the prose is mostly the present; Kaus treats the contemporary world sensitively, and people with their own feelings and natures. Kaus’ work contains a post-modernist interplay, a blend of different genres and parodies of texts, games with language. It might be said that a considered use of words and empathy with his characters are typical of him; they tend to be solitary wanderers who have been set aside from success in the modern world. Although the focus of the action is mostly Estonia, there is something universal, with a wider application, in Kaus’ works. In the texts, the city of Tallinn has a prominent place, such as in the novel Hetk (‘The Moment’, 2009) is dedicated to the city; in the novel Koju (‘Homeward’, 2012) Tallinn has a crucial role, and the city is mapped out in the collection of mini-prose Tallinna kaart (‘Map of Tallinn’, 2014) as well as Kompass (‘Compass’, 2017), which has been defined as a novel consisting of pieces of mini-prose. This last is at the same time an attempt to unite Kaus’ favoured genres – the novel and the miniature.

Kaus’ work includes both psychological novels, such as Tema (‘She’, 2006), and those that move on the painful paths of history, for instance the novel Ma olen elus (‘I’m Alive’, 2014), in whose fictional location, called Tarurootsi, one may see a generalised Estonia, a story over generations narrated in Kaus’ recognisable and poetic style.

A survey of the reviews, essays, meditations that have appeared in the press is provided, for instance, in Läbi Minotaurse: artikleid aastatest 1998-2002 (‘Through the Minotaur: Articles 1998-2002’, 2003), Elu ja kirjandus: teksti eesti kirjandusest 2004-2011 (‘Life and Literature: texts about Estonian literature 2004-2011’, 2012) and Kui mina ei ole mina (‘When I am not I’, 2018).

Kaus has found distinction from several cultural publications: the journal Looming’s annual prize for criticism in 2001 and for the play Püstol (‘Pistol’) in 2004; he was laureate of the journal Sirp (2005); the annual award of the journal Teater, Muusika, Kino (2019). He won the E.W. Ponkala fund’s prize (2003), the Eduard Vilde literature prize in 2007 for the novel Tema (2006); the University of Tallinn literature award for the novel Mina olen elus (2014) and the title of Author of the Year (2015), and in 2019 the Friedebert Tuglas short story prize for ‘Õnnelik lõpp’ (‘Happy Ending’), which appeared in the collection Enne kui unisusest saab reegel (‘Before Sleepiness Becomes the Rule’, 2018). In addition he has won the prize of the President of the Republic of Estonia for a young cultural figure (2003), the Estonian Cultural Endowment scholarship ‘Ela ja sära’ (‘Live and Shine’, 2007), the Literature Endowment annual award in 2015 for Ma olen elus and Tallinna kaart (2014), and he has been one of the recipients of a writer’s salary from the Ministry of Culture.

A. K. (Translated by C. M.)

Books in Estonian

Maailm ja mõni. Tallinn: Õigem Valem, 2001, 142 lk.
Tema. Tallinn: Tuum, 2006, 268 lk. [2. trükk: 2007.]
Hetk. Tallinn: Tuum, 2009, 208 lk.
Koju. Tallinn: Tuum, 2012, 208 lk.
Ma olen elus. Tallinn: Tuum, 2014, 280 lk.
Kompass: miniatuurromaan. Tallinn: Hea Lugu, 2017, 110 lk.

Short prose
Üle ja ümber: jutud. Tallinn: Tuum, 2000, 146 lk.
Õndsate tund: jutud. Tallinn: Tuum, 2003, 164 lk.
Miniatuurid. Pärnu: Jumalikud Ilmutused, 2009, 76 lk.
Kaart ja teekond. Saarde, Pärnu: Jumalikud Ilmutused, 2014, 67 lk.
Tallinna kaart: miniatuurid. Loomingu Raamatukogu 20. Tallinn: Kultuurileht, 2014, 50 lk. [2. trükk: 2021.]
Tõrv: jutustus. Tallinn: Tuum, 2015, 112 lk.
Läheduste raamat. Tallinn: Verb, 2016,  72 lk.
Enne kui unisusest saab reegel. Tallinn: Post Factum, 2018, 287 lk.

Poetry collections
Öösel näeb halvemini kui päeval: mõned mõtteterad 92-94. Eesti, 1994, 48 lk.
Aeg on vaha. Tallinn: Verb, 2005, 78 lk.
Vasaraheitja. Saarde, Pärnu: Jumalikud Ilmutused, 2013, 92 lk.

Läbi Minotauruse: artikleid aastatest 1998-2002. Tallinn: Sirp, 2003, 191 lk.
Elu ja kirjandus: tekste eesti kirjandusest 2004-2011. Saarde, Pärnu: Jumalikud Ilmutused, 2012, 187 lk.
Kui mina ei ole mina. Tallinn: Hea Lugu, 2018, 127 lk.
Homme tuntud avarus. Väikeste lausete konstellatsioon. Tallinn: Tallinna Ülikooli Kirjastus, 2020, 179 lk.