Published in 2008, ‘Purge’ (Finnish: Puhdistus) is a novel by Finnish-Estonian writer Sofi Oksanen, that won the ‘Nordic Council Literature Prize‘ in 2010. Oksanen was born in Jyväskylä and is a Finnish novelist and playwright: her mother is an Estonian engineer and her father a Finnish electrician. She made her literary debut with the book ‘Stalinin lehmät’ (2003) and has won several literary prizes, including the ‘Finlandia Prize’ in 2008 and the ‘Runeberg Prize’ in 2009. Her works have also been translated into a host of languages. Despite changin its original ending, Oksanen’s third Finnish-language novel ‘Purge’ is based upon her original play of the same name, staged at the Finnish National Theatre in 2007: it is about the Soviet occupation of Estonia and its consequences, and it also tells stories about human trafficking around the Baltic. The book’s two timeframe levels are 1992 (one year after Estonia won its independence) and the 1940s (when tens of thousands of Estonians were deported to Siberia and agriculture was collectivised). On a summer morning in 1992, old Aliide Truu finds Zara, an exhausted and confused young woman in her vegetable garden: she has been tricked away from her home in Vladivostok to work as a sex worker in Berlin, but on the way to Tallinn, where she was supposed to start selling her body to Finnish sex tourists, she manages to escape. Bit by bit, through flashbacks to Aliide’s youth, the close ties that link the two women’s lives are revealed to the reader. According to the Adjudicating Committee, although Sofi Oksanen’s novel ‘Purge’ takes place in Estonia on two different time planes, its themes of love, treachery, power and powerlessness are timeless: Oksanen describes what history does to individuals and its pervasion in the present. The novel ranked number one on the bestseller list for fiction in both Finland and Estonia, and its success saw a resurgence on stage of the original play, with premieres across Europe, notably at London’s Arcola Theatre on the 24 February 2012. A film of the same name was released in the fall of 2012, produced by Markus Selin and directed by Antti Jokinen, selected as the Finnish entry for the Best Foreign Language Oscar at the 85th Academy Awards. An opera of the same name, composed by Jüri Reinvere, was shown in the Finnish National Opera in 2012.
Books, Culture, Finland, Helsinki, Literature, Theatre