Sofi Oksanen: Kun kyyhkyset katosivat [When the doves disappeared]

9 October 2012 | Mini reviews, Reviews

Kun kyyhkyset katosivat
[When the doves disappeared]
Helsinki: Like, 2012. 365 p.
ISBN 978-952-01078-19
€ 27.90, hardback

Four years after the huge national and international success of her third novel Puhdistus (Purge, 2008, now translated into 38 languages), Sofi Oksanen has published a new novel to the accompaniment of trumpets and drums – a launch cruise to Tallinn, Estonia, workshops and public readings. The Finnish film version of Puhdistus received its world premiere at the same time. Oksanen has earned her star status as a writer, but Kun kyyhkyset katosivat is not as good as its predecessor. The story of Estonian freedom fighter (‘Forest Brother’) Roland and his cousin Edgar, an opportunist who manoeuvres his way through the Nazi and Soviet occupations of Estonia from 1941 until the apparent liberalisation of the 1960s, is thin and fragmentary. The language and style are uneven and diffuse, while Edgar’s chameleon-like shifts of identity from pro-German sympathies through Siberia to complicity with the KGB deserve to be more carefully explored. While the book’s themes are unquestionably authentic and relevant, they don’t really blend together into a moving novel in the way that Puhdistus does.
Translated by David McDuff

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