Ervin Õunapuu (born 30. VII 1956) is a prose writer, playwright, artist, theater producer, and filmmaker.
He was born in Käru in the Rapla County. He studied at Käru Primary School from 1963–1967 and at Rapla Secondary School from 1978–1986, and later received his art education from Tartu Art School. From 1978–1986, he worked as an artist and stage designer at the Tartu Student Club Sõprus ('noortemaja "Sõprus"') and at Vanemuine Theatre, also occasionally doing the odd job. He was the stage designer at Rakvere Theatre from 1987–1990 before becoming a freelancer. His first stage design was for the production Südamevalu ('Heartache', staged by Kaarel Ird and Evald Hermaküla) at Vanemuine Theatre in 1981. He has since made over 100 stage designs, including designs for eight operas. He has also staged his own productions, some of which were from his own texts.
Together with Toomas Saarepera, Ervin Õunapuu wrote and produced the plays Sannikovi maa armastajad ('Lovers of the Land of Sannikov'), Kruppi viimane lint ('Krupp’s Last Tape'), Van Goghi tundmatud aastad ('Van Gogh’s Unknown Years'), and Noa laev ('Noah’s Ark') in 1994 and 1995. He was also writer-producer, together with Toomas Hussar, of the plays Immelmanni sõlm ('Immelmann’s Knot', staged in 1996) and Tule minuga lendama ('Come Flying with Me', staged in 1998). Surm ooperis ('Death at the Opera'), written by Õunapuu, was staged in 1999. The latest Õunapuu drama Mina, Luther ('Me, Luther') was staged and designed in 2014 by the author himself. Ervin Õunapuu has won drama awards from the Estonian Theatre Association on several occasions.
Õunapuu’s first book, the novel Olivia meistriklass ('Olivia. Master Class', 1996), was well received and praised by critics. It remains one of Õunapuu’s most famous literary works. In 1997, a chamber opera based on the novel was produced (libretto, producer: Peeter Jalakas; music: Lepo Sumera; stage design: Ervin Õunapuu). Later, Õunapuu received additional praise for his short stories, which were published primarily in collections bearing the title Eesti gootika ('Estonian Gothic'). He won the Tuglas Short Story Prize in 2000 for his short story Väike Lilli Noarootsist ('Little Lilli from Noarootsi') and the Gailit Short Story Prize for the story Kui ingel laskus ('When the Angel Fell').
In Õunapuu’s prose pieces, an irresistibly strong sense of the unknown and the mysteriousness of life are in conflict with human stupidity that is manifested mainly in the everyday tragedy of Estonian village life and institutionalized Christianity. The characters experience the world passionately, physically, and sometimes violently; nightmares and visions rule over them, and the mood is grotesque.
Õunapuu has been a screenwriter, director, and set designer for several films. He debuted in 1977 at the Tartu Autumn Exhibition as a visual artist and later gained attention for his surrealist watercolors. He has since participated in several group and personal exhibitions. He has also created television plays and radio dramas, designed books, and published articles in journals.
I. M. (Translated by M. M.)
Books in Estonian
Olivia meistriklass. Tallinn: FC Boheem, 1996, 264 lk.
Mõõk: nagu jõgi. Tallinn: Umara, 2002, 159 lk.
Meie igapäevane jää: Eesti gootika. III. Autori kujundus. Tallinn: Varrak, 2006, 255 lk.
Teie mälestuseks, kes iganes te olete ja kus asute. Autori illustratsioonid. Tallinn: Umara, 1999, 126 lk.
Eesti gootika. Tallinn: Varrak, 1999, 150 lk.
Väike palveraamat: ühe hingetõmbega. Autori illustratsioonid. Tallinn: Umara, 2000, 73+71 lk.
Surmaminejad lasevad tervitada. Tallinn: Umara, 2000, 51 lk.
Sinu teejuht ristiusku. Autori kaanekujundus. Tallinn: Umara, 2003, 151 lk.
Eesti gootika. II: tosin veidrat juttu. Autori kujundus. Tallinn: Umara, 2004, 189 lk.
Eesti gootika: lauavestlused. Tartu: Eesti Ajalookirjastus, 2010, 80 lk.
Eesti gootika XX: jutte ja lugusid aastatest 1997-2017. Tallinn: Varrak, 2017, 386 lk.
Plays, Opera Librettos
Toomas Saarepera, Ervin Õunapuu, Sannikovi maa armastajad. Von Krahli Teater, 1994.
Toomas Saarepera, Ervin Õunapuu, Kruppi viimane lint. Von Krahli Teater, 1994.
Toomas Saarepera, Ervin Õunapuu, Van Gogh'i tundmatud aastad. Eesti Draamateater, 1995.
Toomas Saarepera, Ervin Õunapuu, Noa laev. Rakvere Teater, 1995.
Toomas Hussar, Ervin Õunapuu, Immelmanni sõlm. Von Krahli Teater, 1996.
Toomas Hussar, Ervin Õunapuu, Tule minuga lendama. Eesti Draamateater, 1998.
Surm ooperis. Eesti Draamateater, 1999.
Ervin Õunapuu (libreto), Gurmaanid. Estonia, 2001.
Kuues maitse. MTÜ R.A.A.A.M, 2010.
Pühamatest pühamad. Endla, 2012.
Mina, Luther. Tallinna Kammerteater, 2014.