Sofi Oksanen is acclaimed Finnish-Estonian writer with attitude, who’s main works (including “Purge”), have gained wide recognition and won her (so far) 12 prizes and awards, including “Le Prix du roman FNAC” and “The Nordic Council Literature Prize”, not to mention several Finnish awards.
“Purge” (which has been translated into 38 languages) is a story about love and passion leads one to desperation and defeat from where the only way out seems to be betrayal. It is a story of how one can and will live remaining of their lives with damaged past, not being haunted and drowning in memories so bitter.
Hope for redemption
Main character – elderly woman Aliide Truu – who lives silently in small settlement away from pulsing cities, receives unexpected guest on a rainy morning past harvest season. A girl – or rather a young woman, Zara – appears in her garden, desorientated and unclear about her motives. Aliide, though hesitating what her own action should be in such situation, decides to do the minimum – bathe, dress, feed, and send the girl off again, not knowing accepting this visitation will open door to past and unveil most gruesome deeds she hoped were buried long ago, deep to her sub-consciousness. And by this sudden event she is given one more chance to remember the sufferings, confess and admit her own atrocities, and hope for redemption. Will she accept it?
Homologize with Soviet norms
The story builds on several decades of 20th century, interlaced and mixed, drawing images of one ordinary family life intervened by Soviet regime in late 1930-s. One of the main driving force through the story is: Fear – Aliide’s emerging dark memories of her sister Ingel and her perfect husband Hans, Aliide’s own husband Martin she only married out of necessity to homologize with Soviet norms, and Zara’s flee from her enslaver and pimp Pasha. The side characters – husbands Hans and Martin – are also led by fear of how the soviet system steer their lives and how free choice is no option. Which leads Hans to drown in despair and insanity after hiding from the regime for years, and Martin to surrender into a puppet role of exemplary citizen.
Sofi Oksanens’ “Purge” is well written and captivating, but one should be careful, not to generalize or to believe this story applies to the entire society of former Soviet republic(s). It is horrifying example, but ordinary life for ordinary people in Soviet Union was not all horror. This story is one of a kind, and although there are thousands and hundreds of thousands and millions of stories, each has their own print and faces with joy and tragedy interweaved.
By Kerttu Lohmus
Roman ”Renselse” af Sofi Oksanen (original title ”Puhdistus”). Danish translation: Helena Idström. 360 pages. In Denmark published by Rosinante, 2011.Follow Forrbugermania by this RSS feed, or at facebook. This site is optimized for reading on mobil phones, but should you have a Nokia phone please use this App.