Robert Kurvitz

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Robert Kurvitz
Born (1984-10-08) 8 October 1984 (age 35)
Tallinn, Estonia
OccupationNovelist and video game designer
GenreScience fiction, fantastic realism
Notable worksSacred and Terrible Air, Disco Elysium

Robert Kurvitz (born 8 October 1984) is an Estonian novelist, musician, and video game designer. He has penned essays, film scripts, and cultural criticism. He also leads the video game development company ZA/UM, which released Disco Elysium in 2019. Kurvitz has Karelian-Estonian heritage.

Early life and musical career[edit]

Kurvitz is the son of artists Raoul Kurvitz and Lilian Mosolainen.[1] In 2001 he became the lyricist and lead singer of progressive rock band Ultramelanhool,[2] inspired by Estonian bands Metro Luminal and Vennaskond.[3] To date, they have released two albums, Must apelsin (Black Orange) and Materjal (Material), in 2004 and 2008 respectively.[4] A song from the first album Talvehommik ("Winter Morning") was featured in the Kanal 2 TV series Ühikarotid ("Dorm Rats").

The band failed to find an Estonian record label for their second album. It was self-released with money inherited Kurvitz's long-time friend, editor and collaborator Martin Luiga,[5] and released on the internet for free.[6] A third album, Fantastika was announced on the ZA/UM website in May 2011,[7] but it has yet to materialize.[8]

In 2011 Kurvitz collaborated with Raoul Kurvitz on the album Forbidden to Sing, providing backing vocals and synth.[9] The album was granted the Annual Award of Estonian Cultural Endowment.[10]


Kurvitz largely relies on the traditions of world-building from Dungeons & Dragons in his writing, having played the table-top roleplaying game for much of his life. Others are also involved in the development of ideas. "Mass editing" was employed as a tool in the finishing stage of the book, where people of various backgrounds assessed the readability and realism of the work, pointed out confusing passages and suggested amendments.[11]

In 2013 Kurvitz published the novel Sacred and Terrible Air (Estonian: "Püha ja õudne lõhn"). It is set in a fictional world and centers on three men who, twenty years after the mysterious disappearance of their classmates, are still determined to find them. It received mostly positive reviews,[12][13] with literary theorist Johanna Ross highlighting it as one of the few books to successfully bridge the science fiction and "literature proper".[11]

Later that year, Kurvitz resigned from his role as editor of Estonian cultural magazine Sirp when Andres Aule publicly voiced his objections to a poem being published allegedly without his permission; Kurvitz and Kaur Kender assumed responsibility.[14]

Kurvitz founded the video game development company ZA/UM in 2016. Its first game, Disco Elysium, set in the world of the Sacred and Terrible Air, was released on 15 October 2019 with Kurvitz serving as its lead writer and designer.[15][16][17] The game received universal acclaim, with its narrative and conversational systems receiving the most praise from critics. It won several awards and accolades from various publications.[18][19][20]


  1. ^ "TÄISMAHUS: Robert Kurvitz austab lootuse esteetikat". Eesti Päevaleht. 29 June 2012.
  2. ^ "Sõjaajaloolane Jüri Kot?inev vestab – üllatus, üllatus – täna hoopis muusikast. Ansamblist ultramelanhool. Ja sellest, miks eelmainit grupp tänases ja ehk ka homses kontekstis tähtis on. ‹ Ajaleht KesKus koduleht".
  3. ^ "Ultramelanhool – päästerõngas uppunule?". Postimees. 10 August 2004.
  4. ^ "Eesti rahvusbibliograafia".
  5. ^
  6. ^ "Hüvasti plaadid, tere veebimuusika!". Postimees. 19 September 2008.
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^ "Eesti rahvusbibliograafia".
  10. ^ "NOAR | Nordic and Baltic Contemporary Art Center". NOAR.
  11. ^ a b
  12. ^ "Nädala raamat: Kurvitza püha ja õudne aegruum". Eesti Ekspress. 30 November 2013.
  13. ^ "Vikerkaar ; 4-5 2014-05 | Digar".
  14. ^ "Kaur Kender ja Robert Kurvitz panid pillid kotti". Elu24. 25 November 2013.
  15. ^ Marzano, Anthony (15 October 2019). "Police procedural cRPG Disco Elysium is out today". Destructoid. Retrieved 16 October 2019.
  16. ^ Taylor, Haydn (31 October 2018). "Chasing oblivion with Disco Elysium and alcohol addiction".
  17. ^ Macgregor, Jody. "Disco Elysium's lead designer wants to make an expansion and sequel, has already written a novel". PC Gamer. Retrieved 13 November 2019.
  18. ^ Makuch, Eddie (13 December 2019). "The Game Awards 2019 Winners: Sekiro Takes Game Of The Year". GameSpot. Retrieved 13 December 2019.
  19. ^ Byrd, Christopher (17 October 2019). "'Disco Elysium': Riveting delirium". The Washington Post. Retrieved 18 October 2019.
  20. ^ "The 25 Best Video Games of 2019". Slant. Retrieved 15 December 2019.