Sofi Oksanen: ‘We know about British colonialism. Russian colonialism is not well known’

[From The Guardian]

For a Finnish writer to be translated into English is an unusual event; over the last decade, only 40 or 50 Finnish novels have appeared in the US and UK – a “strange” state of affairs, according to Sofi Oksanen. But Oksanen isn’t merely a Finnish writer who has broken through. The author of Purge (2008), which sold over a million copies, is an international publishing sensation, frequently likened to Stieg Larsson. Only one Finnish author outsells her, Oksanen jokes: the late Tove Jansson, creator of the lovable, bohemian Moomin family.

She’s also won more awards than any other contemporary Finnish author. Her fiction has scooped the European book prize, the prestigious Swedish Academy Nordic prize and the French Prix Femina. When her fourth novel, When the Doves Disappeared, came out in Finland and Sweden in 2012, it shot straight to No 1; it will be published in 29 countries around the world, including the UK next month.

Like Purge, its theme is the occupation of Estonia – Oksanen has a Finnish father and an Estonian mother – during and after the second world war. The novel’s title refers to German soldiers who snared and ate pigeons in the Estonian capital, Tallinn, during wartime, and to the divergent twin fates of collaborators and resisters. (The country was occupied by the Soviet Red Army, then the Nazis, then the USSR again.)

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