Berk Vaher

Short stories Berk Vaher

About Berk Vaher


Berk Vaher (born 30 June 1975) is a writer and critic.

Vaher was born in Kohtla-Järve. He attended school in Viljandi studied English philology at the University of Tartu. Vaher acquired a master’s degree at Warwick University in the UK; his master’s thesis dealt with British subcultures. Vaher was a doctoral student of semiotics and a lecturer at the Department of English at the University of Tartu. He has been a member of the Estonian Writers’ Union from 2002, from 2005 (with an interval from 2011–2014) chairman of its Tartu department. He belongs to the grouping Erakkond. He has been awarded the title of Tartu Bearer of Culture (2003, 2005), Juri Lotman stipend (2008) and Ants Oras Literary Criticism Prize (2017).

Vaher entered literature in the second half of the 1990s; his debut book, the short prose collection Pilved asfaldile (‘Clouds onto Asphalt’, 2000) stood out with eloquent descriptions of moods and states of mind and abundant images. As characteristic of Vaher, the plot remains in the background; an essential role belongs to dreams and rich intellectual games with the text and texts. For example, the collection Kaval kuuldavus (‘Cunning Audibility’, 2001) is a complex example of inter- and metatextual connections to which games with punctuation and text formatting are added. In the short story collection Sekeldaja päevad (‘Busybody’s Days’, 2004), the author is recognisable as the main character of several stories; the themes are mainly intellectual. Vaher’s works are methodically composed. A telling example of postmodernist games with language, words, images and meanings is, for example, the novel Lugulaul (‘Epic Song’, 2002). As characteristic of the author, it presumes an equally erudite reader. His prose books include texts in verse; the separate poetry collection Silmanurga taga (‘Behind the Corner of the Eye’, 2018) is also based on intellectual and intertextual games with language, texts and meanings.

Articles on literary criticism and interpretation of literature have been collected into the book Sõnastamatu lend sõnades (‘Unwordable Flight in Words’, 2014) where the central place belongs to the treatments of Valdur Mikita, Mehis Heinsaar, Ervin Õunapuu and Nikolai Baturin.

Berk Vaher has been one of the most active promoters of experimental culture in Estonia. In 2002, he founded the avant-garde journal Vihik and, in 2004, the experimental culture festival Eclectica. He has done radio broadcasts (e.g., the literature programme Spiikker), been one of the initiators of the PrimaVista literature festival, written music and acted as a DJ. An example of this line is also the book Müümata naer (‘Unsold Laughter’, 2006) about talks with the singer-songwriter Tõnis Mägi. Vaher was also one of the key persons in achieving the title of Culture Capital of Europe for Tartu in 2024.

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

Books in Estonian

Lugulaul. Tartu: Erakkond, 2002, 383 lk

Kaval kuuldavus: luuletused ja lühijutud. Tallinn: Erakkond, 2001, 106 lk
Silmanurga taga. Tartu: Elusamus, 2018, 54 lk

Short prose
Pilved asfaldile: jutte ja muidujutte 1993-1999. Tartu: Erakkond, 2000, 105 lk
Kaval kuuldavus: luuletused ja lühijutud. Tallinn: Erakkond, 2001, 106 lk
Sekeldaja päevad: novellid. Tallinn: Tuum, 2004, 136 lk

Tõnis Mägi, Berk Vaher, Müümata naer. Tallinn: Ilo, 2006, 208 lk
Sõnastamatu lend sõnades: kirjutisi kirjandusest. I. Tallinn: Eesti Keele Sihtasutus, 2014, 310 lk