Friday, 14 January 2011

Purge

I've just finished reading Lola Rogers' translation of Puhdistus (Purge), by Sofi Oksanen. It's a remarkable work - restless, vivid, articulate, emotional, violent, political - and I don't think there is anything quite like it in the rest of world literature. The only book remotely akin to it that I've come across before is a strange Estonian novel from 2004, which has a similar graphic reconstruction of Soviet reality. I think Sofi Oksanen's work does require a knowledge of Estonian and Soviet history if the reader is to understand the thinking, motivation and actions of the characters. One solitary niggling doubt I have is that while the book amounts to an extraordinary tribute to the Estonian people and their survival of decades of Soviet occupation, the characters themselves don't come across as very likeable human beings - but I believe that may be deliberate on the author's part. It's good to see Paul-Eerik Rummo's poetry quoted in the opening of each section.

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