Unt's first novel, written at the age of 18 after having finished high school, was Hüvasti, kollane kass (Goodbye, Yellow Cat). This made him famous all over Estonia. He studied literature and journalism at Tartu University.
After this precocious beginning‚ Unt arranged a wide call in the artistic and intellectual circles of Estonia as a writer of the fiction, plays, and criticism. His books The Moon Like the Outgoing Sun, The Debt (1964), On the Possibility of life in space, and The Black Motorcyclist rocketed Unt to the top of the novelist world in Estonia. In addition, he served a purpose in bringing avantgarde theatre to post-Soviet Union Estonia. Unt was well known as a director. In 1981, he became a director of the Youth Theatre in Tallinn.
In 1979, his novel "Autumn Ball" (adapted to film in 2007 by Veiko Õunpuu) brought him international recognition. Other books include 1990s 'Diary of a Blood Donor' and the 2001 play 'Graal!'. Films based on Unt's works 'Tühirand' (i.e. "An Empty Beach") and 'Sügisball' (i.e. "Autumn Ball") have been created after his death.
Three of Mati Unt's postmodern novels are now available in English translation: "Things in the Night" (2007) and "Brecht at Night" (2009) both translated by Eric Dickens, and "Diary of a Blood Donor" (2008) translated by Ants Eert. All three of these books were published by The Dalkey Archive Press in Illinois. A further novella "An Empty Beach" by Unt is to be found in the anthology "The Dedalus Book of Estonian Literature" (2011), published by Dedalus Books, Sawtry, England.
Mati Unt died in 2005. He is buried in the Metsakalmistu cemetery in Tallinn.
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