Indrek Koff

Poems Indrek Koff

Children’s stories


About Indrek Koff

Indrek Koff (b. 4. III 1975) is an Estonian writer and prolific translator who has published experimental poetry and children’s books with lyrical undertones.

Koff was born in Pärnu and studied at Pärnu Sütevaka High School of Humanities. In 1999, he received his BA in French Language and Literature from the University of Tartu. He has attended several trainings for translators and professors of translation in Estonia, France and Denmark. He has worked at the Estonian Legal Language Centre and as a lecturer at both the universities of Tartu and Tallinn.

Koff’s debut collection Vana laul (‘Old Song’, 2006) is a narrative verse poem consisting of a cycle of short minimalist poems that uses kissing as a metaphor of telling a person’s life story from the first shy thoughts about kissing until the last cheek kiss of old age. Since his debut publication, Koff uses repeating phrases or sentences in his poetry to amplify the emotion or idea carried in the text (e.g. “the kiss remained ungiven”). His collection Poeem (‘Poem’, 2016) is characterized by humorous fragments that observe the life of a writer, literary stereotypes and the institutions of literature. His third collection Saja rahva lood (‘The Stories of a Hundred Nations’, 2016) has strong themes of intertextuality and contains very many minimalist fairytale drafts that, upon closer inspection, turn out to be summaries of well-known classics and other novels from the point of view of the modern reader.

The most renowned of his works is the conceptual poem collection Eestluse elujõust: hüsteeriline traktaat (‘On the Vitality of Estonianness: A Hysterical Tract’, 2010) that won the Literature Endowment Annual Award. The collection consists of phrases or clichés often used in modern colloquial or spoken Estonian that are divided into thematic groups such as weather, drinking, xenophobia, tragic history, country, cars, etc. The Tract may be considered an encyclopedia of everyday culture mentalities from turn of the century Estonia. At the same time, the title makes an ironic reference to Eestluse elujõud (‘Vitality of Estonianness’, 1951) – a book by the folklorist Oskar Loorits. Emphasizing polyphony and thematic diversity are the repeating phrases “tea or coffee” and “sick” – the hatred, jealousy and melancholy hidden with shallow courtesy express the ambivalent nature of Estonian vitality. The same principle is repeated in the work Oi Suomi on (2018, co-written by the Estonian-Finnish writer Mikä Keränen and Indrek Koff) that focuses on the same themes from the point of view of Finnish culture and language.

Koff’s stories meant for younger children are characterized by many moods and emotions where different events generally lead to the emphasizing of friendship, thoughtfulness, courage and other positive characteristics. In addition to his realist stories, he has also written absurdist stories and children’s stories that use more playful language, for example in the book Kirju koer (‘Spotted Dog’, 2014).

Koff has translated into Estonian mainly French fiction and essays (Emmanuel Carrére, Laurent Gaudé, Éric-Emmanuel Schmitt, Jean-Claude Mourlevat, Michel Houellebecq, Claude Lévi-Strauss, Michel Foucault and many others).

J. K. (Translated by A. S.)

Books in Estonian

Vana laul. Illustratsioonid ja kujundus: Hanna Geara. Luige: Verb, 2006, 64 lk.
Eestluse elujõust: hüsteeriline traktaat. Tallinn: Indrek Koffi Tõlketalu], 2010, 69 lk. [Juurdetrükk: 2011.]
Mürk, Asjaõigusest. Tallinn: Roheline Kuu, 2012, 143 lk. [Mürk on Jan Kausi ja Indrek Koffi ühispseudonüüm.]
Poeem. Jüri Mildebergi pildid. Tallinn: Härra Tee & proua Kohvi, 2016, 55 lk.
Saja rahva lood. Jüri Mildebergi pildid. Tallinn: Härra Tee & proua Kohvi, 2016, 54 lk.

Children’s stories
Enne kooli: unejuturaamat lastele, kes oskavad juba ise lugeda, ja neile ka, kes veel ise ei oska, aga kelle ema ja isa oskavad. Illustratsioonid: Andres Varustin. Tallinn: Kirjastuskeskus, 2009, 84 lk.
Meie suur puu. Illustreerinud Louise Duneton. Tallinn: Päike ja Pilv, 2012, 43 lk.
Kui ma oleksin vanaisa. Pildid joonistanud Marion Undusk. Tallinn: Päike ja Pilv, 2013, 77 lk.
Kirju koer. Pildid joonistanud Marion Undusk. Tallinn: Härra Tee & proua Kohvi, 2014, 61 lk.
Koju. Illustreerinud ja kujundanud Marja-Liisa Plats. Tallinn: Härra Tee & proua Kohvi, 2014, 45 lk.
Ilusti. Illustreerinud ja kujundanud Ulla Saar Tallinn: Härra Tee & proua Kohvi, 2016, 53 lk.
Ma elan hästi. Illustreerinud Ulla Saar. Tallinn: Härra Tee & proua Kohvi, 2016, 29 lk.
Kooliraamat. Illustreerinud ja kujundanud Marja-Liisa Plats. Tallinn: Tallinna Keskraamatukogu, 2017, 92 lk.

Indrek Koff, Liisa-Ly Pakosta, Kirjad lapsevanemale. Pildid joonistas Anne Pikkov. Tallinn: Soolise võrdõiguslikkuse ja võrdse kohtlemise voliniku kantselei, 2016, 60 lk.