White hunger Aki Ollikainen

White hunger by Aki Ollikainen

Finnish fiction

Translator – Fleur and Emily Jeremiah

Original title –  Nälkävuosi

Source – review copy

I carry on with my journey through books on the MBIP2016 contenders. This is the first if two Peirene titles that could be on the longlist and given Peirene recent history of always having a book on the old IFFP longlists it is a good shout that they should have one this year on the new prize. This was the debut novel by Finnish writer Aki Ollikainen it won the best debut novel in Finland the year it came out and even cooler was the fact the book had won something called  the Finnish book blogger book of the year.

The colour of death is white, at funerals, people wear black, the living that is even the deceased is in black, because he is dressed in best clothes he owned while alive, but his face is always white. When the soul leaves a human, only white remains.

The color is being drained from Juhani’s face the first to go was red, the colour of blood. Red changes into yellow, then yellow too, vanished, leaving grey, which is now gradually fading into white.

A brilliant description of the way a dying person turns sallow in the way they look then white after death.

Marja is the main character in this story we follow her and her two children as we follow her on her journey to try to get to the Russian city of \St Petersburg where she has heard there is bread to eat and food available. This is 1867 and it is the second year in the 3 year Finnish famine. This was after three rainy years  that saw crops fail which like Irish potato famine of the 1840’s the finnish problem is caused because they rely on Root crops for the main stable of their diet. What we see in part as the story of Marja desprate journey is the wider story that of the finnish government through a senator  who didn’t want to borrow money to save the population The minister Snellman struggles to cope with the crisis that has gripped his country (there is a good wiki page with info on these year ).This is one womans journey through hunger to save her kids and the boy they manage to gain along the way. as they survive on thing like poisons lichen bread and Pine bark.

By way of a response, the senator feels an icy breath on his face.

He spent the whole of yesterday leafing through the bible, reading about Joesph’s prophecy, about those seven lean and those seven fat cows. Years of crop failure have now passed, one after the other, but there is no sign of the fat cows on the horizon. Has his incessant talk of finlands beautiful forests been in vain ? are these people good for nothing, apart from tearing bark off trees to supplement their bread.

I like the way used the figure of the Senator and his life to show a wider picture of the famine

I loved this when I read it last year but as always I put it to one side and decide a quick reread and found myself even more captivated by the way Aki capture Marja desperate life. This is as one may say a warts and all account of a journey into hell. This uses one womans life to paint a great picture of true horror that saw one in five Finns die during these years of famine a really interesting story of famine hunger and the search for hope that isn’t just Finnish but universal in the nature Marja could be Mary on her way to Dublin , or Maryse on her way to Addis Ababa and so on. In 130 short ages Aki has maybe done a better job than Hamsun did in his great book Hunger at putting over how it feels to be hungry and struggling to find that food.

Have you read this book ?


When the doves disappeared by Sofi Oksanen




When the doves disappeared by Sofi Oksanen

Finnish fiction

Original title –  Kun kyyhkyset katosivat

Translator – Lola M Rogers

source – review copy

Dig if you will a picture
Of you and I engaged in a kiss
The sweat of your body covers me
Can you my darling
Can you picture this?
Dream if you can a courtyard
An ocean of violets in bloom
Animals strike curious poses
They feel the heat
The heat between me and you

How can you just leave me standing?
Alone in a world that’s so cold (So cold)
Maybe I’m just too demanding
Maybe I’m just like my father too bold
Maybe you’re just like my mother
She’s never satisfied (She’s never satisfied)
Why do we scream at each other?
This is what it sounds like
When doves cry

I choose this as when I read the book I kept calling it when doves cry not when the doves disappeared .I although you can read more into the prince lyrics like you can read more into this book .

Sofi first book in English was one of those rare books in translation that breaks out of the circle of translated readers and gets to a wider audience ,so how to follow-up that success ,well When the doves disappeared was for a me good choice it is based in a similar era to the first book Purge  and also is a story of two people like the first book .But that is where the similarity end . Sofi Oksanen is fast become a huge star of Nordic fiction ,winning the finlandia , nordic prize and the first finnish women to win the Swedish Nordic prize , she has also been women of the year in \Estonia which is part of her shared heritage finnish Estonian .So my fourth women in translation month read sees us going to Finland .

I knew that once Estonia was free again , people of good conscience would want to examine these years , and that would have to be evidence that we acted according to the law , But such thorough record keeping was a risk we couldn’t afford ,The acts of the bolsheviks had already proved that pur country and our homes where under the control of barbarians .

they look at 1941 at what they are doing now how it will be looked at in years to come .

The book is set in the Baltic state of Estonia and is the tale of two cousins Roland a freedom fighter and man of principal and his cousin Edgar a slippery man who when the German comes joins them and leaves both his cousin and his wife Juudit .The story is told in two eras  1941 just as Estonia is about to fall to the russians  and 1963 as the country is no under the stranglehold of the Soviet regime .The first era follows the fall then the Germans taking control of Estonia and Edgar rise as he sees a new Estonia under the Germans , but this is the frontline and this brief time of German rule is about to be wiped out by Stalin . The second era in the book shows how twenty years of Stalin and post Stalin rule has had on the country and the three main character in this book .

Comrade Part’s instinct was correct .In the list from 1944 he found a familiar name .Just a name , no date of death or indication of transfer to another camp or evacuation to germany ,A name he wished had been someone else’s .Anyone else’s .He had been searching for any name he recognized , but this was the very name he didn’t want to find , a name that felt like if he pronounced it out loud his tongue would be covered in blisters ,A name that shouldn’t even be on the list .Roland Simson.

Who is Part’s ? and is Roland really dead ?

I actually enjoyed this more than Purge , for me Edgar and Roland reflect two human characters the brave man and the coward . It shows how easy it is to get on if you try to be something you’re not when Edgar does when he joins the Nazis . But it also shows the cost of being brave and sticking to your guns . But most of all it shows how hopeless both sides are under the soviet regime years ago .The book is told at a fast pace jumping between the forties and sixties as we see the story of the three characters and the greater story of Estonia .This book is a worthy follow-up to purge from a rising star of Nordic fiction .

Have you read this or Purge ?

Comapartment No.6 by Rosa Liksom


Compartment No.6 by Rosa Liksom

Finnish fiction

Original title – Hytti nro 6

Translator – Lola Rogers

Source -Review copy

The soul is placed in the body like a rough diamond, and must be polished, or the luster of it will never appear.

Daniel Defoe

Well when this dropped though my door ,it was one I put straight to the top of the pile ,I’ve enjoyed all the recent books from Finland ,That I’ve read have been gems ,plus I’ve always had a fondness for books set on trains so two ticks meant it was a must read .Well Rosa Liksom is a Finnish based writer ,she is also a well-known artist in Finland .She has written 13 other books ,this Compartment No.6 is the latest by her ,it won the Finlandia prize in 2011 .

When the station bell rang for the second time she saw a muscular ,cauliflower-eared man in a black  working mans quilted jacket and a white ermine hat and with him a beautiful dark-haired woman and her teenage son ,keeping  close to his mother .

When she first sees Vadim Nikolayevich Ivanov on the station platform at Moscow .

Compartment No.6 Follows a train ride from Moscow on the Trans Siberian ,an unnamed finnish girl boards the train ,she searches and finds an empty compartment and settles down ,then her silence is shattered when a grizzled looking fellow enters the carriage , He then starts talking to the girl and telling her the story of his life at first she is a bit like a rabbit caught in the headlights not quite knowing what to do ,but as the train speeds through the russian hinterlands she warms to this rough diamond and maybe sees part of her own life in his stories ,as the train is stopped they experience the rough conditions of the Soviet era ,this is the late eighties ,initially the girls thoughts are on getting to Mongolia and see some cave paintings as she is an art student and meeting an old friend but as her and Vadium (the man ) ,grow see maybe sees her life in a wider view outside the life she grew up in .

The night speeds through the dark into dim morning , a dogged queue at the shrine of the WC , a dry wash among the puddles of pee ,sputum ,shame and sheepish looks ,shadows of steaming tea glasses in the window ,large flat cubes of Cuban sugar ,paper light Aluminium spoons ,black bread ,viola cheese ..

She captures life on the train so well the sights and sounds of Soviet life at that time .

Well this is one of those books you can tell came from a love of the writer ,it turns out the writer took a journey on the same train in 1986 ,where she herself shared a compartment with a Russian man .Rosa Liksom has the artist eye for detail so the little things of life in Soviet era Russia are caught so well .For me the story remind me of a very old friend that over the years I lost touch with but Like Vadium was a rough diamond ,yes I remembered my fist meeting Steve and thinking god this bloke is just awful he was a friend of a friend but then over the next few meeting ,I saw through the swearing tales of his very hard upbringing and got to know one of the kindest souls I ever met and regret losing touch with ,That said Vadium isn’t quite such a kind heart soul but he is more than he first appeared to the Girl and he is the person that opens her eyes on her world ,so like me with steve this is someone she will remember for the rest of her life .Rather like the last lines of  the film Stand by me ,a writer remember a friend and journey in younger life .

Have you a favourite book based on a train ?


Eurovision of books 2013 what to read from the final

Well tonight sees the 2013 Eurovision competition ,I see this as a good chance to do a Europe wide reading guide suggesting a book I’ve read ,A book I want to read (in some cases just this I ve not read books from all 25 countries ).Our entry is from Bonnie Tyler this year ,some I just remember for a huge hit she had in the 1980’s so shall we start I.


Well I ve 25 books under review on the blog from France .I ve chosen is an older review the book is Piano by Jean Echenoz .A very odd book about a man with time running out on his life .

piano jean echenoz

piano jean echenoz

On the radar well there is 2011  Prix Goncourt which I know is being translated into english as we speak .L’art francais de la geurre (the french art of war) contriversal but follows the french in indo china ,I was reminded of the scenes added to apocalypse now with the french in Vietnam .

Lartfrancaisdelaguerretonight’s song from france is L’enter et moi sung by Amandine Bourgeis .


I ve unfortunately not read a book from Lithuania .here is an overview of Lithuania literature I found

So on the radar is this book  The Dedalus Book of Lithuanian Literature  Author/editor : Almantas Samalavicius due out soon to me seems a good place to start .

lithuanian literatureThe song from Lithuania tonight is Something sung by Andrius Pojavis


I have yet to read a book from Moldova .so here is the wiki list of writers from Moldova

So it one for on the radar for Moldova is the piece a year of reading read .I m sure in time we will see a couple of Moldova novel appear in english .there are a short piece in each of the best of European fiction collections as well to try

best european fiction 2010

best european fiction 2010

Moldova song is Omie sung by Alioan Moon


I have at least read Finnish literature there are 7 Finnish books under review on the blog. The human part by Kari Hotakainen ,seems a good choice a women sells her life story and it is rewritten very much one for this modern world .

untitledOn my radar this one isn’t hard it is the next Peirene novel .Mr Darwin’s gardener by Kristina Carlson .Its describe as under Milkwood in Kent and at mr Darwin’s house .

darwin_web_0_220_330The finnish song for tonight is Marry me by Krista Siegfrids


Well the most recent review on the blog seems a great choice for Eurovision Night Lost luggage by Jordi Punti covers part of Europe as four half brothers from four countries meet for the first time .

Jordi-Punti lost luggageOn the radar I think the recent Manuel Rivas novel is one that I will be reading soon .All is silence is about three friends growing up .I have previously read Riva’s carpenter’s pencil it is one of 10 books under review on the blog .

all is silence by Manuel RivasSpains song for tonight is Contigo hasta el final sung by ESDM


Well  this is an easy one for me my choice has to be wonder by Hugo Claus one of my all time favourite books a man driven to the edge in post war Belgium by shadowy groups  of neo Nazis .one of three books from Belgium under review

WonderOn the radar well an old one but   one I love George Simenon, that Nyrb books are slowly reissuing his books and many available second-hand he wrote so many not even his own estate knows how many as he used many names to write under ,even once writing a book in a bubble over a couple of days .

dirty snow

Belgium’s  song for tonight is Love kills by Robert Bellarosa


I ve just one book from Estonia under review but it is a very good one Brecht at night by Mati  Unt follows the German writer Brecht as he escapes from Germany to America as he spends time in Estonia and Finland on route .



On the radar well Dalkey Archive have a couple more books from the late  Mati Unt I so enjoyed Brecht at night I will over time be trying those ,this is the next one that appeals to me is the Diary of a blood donor a retelling of the Dracula story .

diary of a blood donorEstonia’s song for tonight is Et uus saaks alguse by Brigit


Belarus is another country I am yet to read a book from .

On the radar is this collection from Dalkey Archive called Voices from Chernobyl by Svetlana Alexievich .This collection follows the aftermath of the Chernobyl disaster

voices from ChernobyklThe song from Belarus is Solayoh sung by Alyona Lanaskay


Malta is another place I ve yet to read a book from.

A year of reading read the book happy weekend by Immanuel Mifsud here is her review 

coverhappyweekendMalta song for tonight is Tomorrow song by Gianluca


Well back to places I’ve read books from ,although I do view russia as a bit of an Achilles heel for me in Europe but of recent books I read from Russia it is this one I remember best .The new Moscow Philosophy by Vyacheslav Pyetsukh set over a weekend end a flat become vacant as an old women dies set in today this book has its routes in classic Russian literature .

the new moscow philosphyOn the radar well there is one writer I have on my radar big time I ve read one book so far the Light and the dark by Mikhail Shishkin a love affair told in letters over time and distance .Also have his other book Madienhair on my tbr pile .


Russia’s song for tonigh is What if sung by Dina Garipova


I’ve  21 books under review from Germany .The most recent seems apt for tonight ,The Mussel feast sees a Germany family sit down for an evening meal ,but this is also just as the new unified Germany is beginning .just as the title for this yearts Eurovision is” we are one ”

the mussel feastOn the radar is the comic German novel currently being translated Er ist wieder da ,a satire that imagine what happened if Hitler returned to modern Germany .


Germany’s song for tonight is Glorious sung by Cascada


I ve not read any books from Armenia

so on the radar I found this book  Armenian Golgotha by Grigoris Balakian a book about the Armenian genocide .

aremnnian golgothThe Aremnia song for tonight is Lonely planets sung by Dorians


Well I have read quite a few Dutch books .My recent favourite has been Amsterdam stories by Nescio ,a collection of short stories in and around Amsterdam a businessman imagines what his life might have been had he chosen different paths .this is one of eleven books under review here .

Amsterdam-StoriesOn the radar is the book mention in an interview as it is one I hope to see in English and this is J. J. Voskuil,’s Het bureau ,the office a  seven novel cycle following thirty years in an office .

bureau_0The Dutch song for this year is Birds sung by Anouk


Well I do have a Romanian writer but Herta muller is more often counted as german ,but her books are set Romania ,of the few books by her I’ve read I suggest starting with Nadirs her short story collection it is short and isn’t maybe as intense as her novels tend to be .

nadirs herta muller

One book that is one my radar by a writer still in Romania is The Fifth Impossibility: Essays on Exile and Language (Margellos World Republic of Letters)  by Norman Manea ,he was expelled from Romania in the sixties ,a collection of essays following his life .


The Romanian song for tonight is Its my life sung by Cezar

United Kingdom

Well to us, as Bonnie Tyler is Welsh I ve decide to choose a Welsh novel that just happens to be a translation .The life of Rebecca Jones By Angharad Price .Follows a family in a valley ,we meet Rebecca and her three blind brothers .


Well I m not doing a on the radar for the UK as there are lots of blogs dealing with English fiction that know a lot better than be what to read from the UK .

Our song is Believe in me by Bonnie Tyler


I’ve read four books from Sweden of those I m going suggest a Non-fiction Title Stieg Larsson my friend by Kurdo Baski ,a fellow journalist a good friend of the later thriller writer ,lifts the lid on his crusading Journalism ,he was a fierce anti fascist as well as a great thriller writer .


Next up for me from Sweden I think will be the new Roslund and Hellstrom  called Two soldiers it is about the gang culture in Sweden and stars Ewert Grens that was a character in the earlier book by them I read Three seconds .

two soldiers roslundThe Swedish song for tonight is You sung by Robin Stjernberg


Well I ve mention Satantango a lot so I will pick the epic Parallel stories by Peter Nadas , here as my choice it starts with a dead body and takes you through life in Communist Hungary .One of the most extraordinary books in translation of recent years and showing how wonderful  Hungarian fiction is .

parallel stories hardback cover

On my radar is one I ll be reading this week in fact be reading it on Monday on my train journey down to London ,The book is Skylark by Dezső Kosztolányi a book that follows a young girl in 1900 Hungary .

skylark by Dezső KosztolányiHungarys song for tonight is Kedvesem sung by Byealex


Not much Choice  on the blog Denmark I have only read one title from there and that is The Murder of Halland ,the longlistee for the Independent foreign fiction Prize this year .Follows a wife as she copes with the her husbands death .A interesting new angle on the crime novel .

Murder of Halland

On my radar well this is a hard on I must admit I know very little about Danish fiction but have had Peter Hoeg the woman and the ape on my tbr pile for a long time .A story following the connection of a wife of a scientist and a 300lb ape .

the woman and the apeThe Danish song for tonight is Only teardrops sung by Emmelie de forest


I have one choice for Iceland Sjon and two books I review by him so Ill pick the whispering Muse .The tale of Vladimir a first class bore that runs a magazine about fishing .As he takes a voyage with what may be the reincarnation of one of Jason and the Argonauts crew .

Whispering Muse

On my radar is a wonderful short story collection from Comma press The stone tree by Gyoir Elfasson a very Icelandic collection of stories .a school boy goes to a chess competition ,sister reading a book .

stone treeIceland’s entry for Eurovision is Ég á Líf  by Eythor Ingi


I not read a book from Azerbaiijan

Here is a year of readings post for Azerbaiijan .I hope there is so more books from here soon this one seems very interesting .A love story set against the backdrop of modern Azerbaijan .

ali and nino

There song for Eurovision is Hold me by Farid Mammadov


I ve read two books from Greece this one seems quite apt set in modern Greece  Ashes by Sergios Gakas .an actress , African family and the landlord all drawn in by a fire .lots of tension and a very noir feel .

ashes sergios GakasWell I’ve just finished a great novel from Greece called What lots wife saw by Ioanna Bourazopoulou it won the Athens prize in Greece .Set in a dystopic future a Crossword setter is trying to find out where a addictive salt called purple salt comes from .

whats lot's wife saw by Ioanna BourazopoulouThe Greek entry for Eurovision tonight is Alcohol is free sung by Koza Mostra feat. Agathon Iakovdis


I ve review two books from Ukraine both written by Andrey Kurkov .I have to pick the classic Death and the penguin ,a man ends up with a penguin and is writing obituries for men that seem to keep dying ,Very dark satire .



I am currently working through another Ukrainian novel The raven by Vasyl Shkliar set in 1921 we follow the Ukraine’s as the try to stop there country being taken over by Russia . Based on Kgb reports of the time Shkliar is one of the most outspoke writers from Ukraine .

raven Vasyl ShkliarThe Ukraine entry for tonight is gravity sung by zlata ognevich


Well I have reviewed 20 books from Italy ,I could choose Italo Calvino or The leopard ,but I decide on the recent collection I reviewed Ten by Andrej Longo .As one of the stories involves a singer .

ten Andrej LongoOne on my radar is my next Italian read Italian  Outsiders stories is a collection of short stories .that was  originally published in Italian newspaper and features the likes of Carlo Lucarelli ,Roberto Saviano and wu ming to name three .

italian outsider storiesThe Italian song for tonight is L’essenziale sung by Marco Mengoni


Well The book of the moment is the epic My struggle the six part fictionalized autobiography of Karl Ove Kanusgaard  This is both my choice and on my Radar I ve read part one death in the family Karl Ove growing up  and am not awaiting part two  a man in love the story of his early romances from My library .

Death in the Family, A


The Norwegian song for tonight is I feed you my  love sung by Magaret Berger


I ve not read anything from Georgia

But Dalkey archive have published a book of contemporary Georgian fiction which feature   work by Mariam Bekauri, Lasha Bugadze, Zaza Burchuladze, Teona Dolenjashvili, Guram Dochanashvili, Rezo Gabriadze, Kote Jandieri, Irakli Javakhadze, Davit Kartvelishvili, Besik Kharanauli, Mamuka Kherkheulidze, Archil Kikodze, Ana Kordzaia, Zurab Lezhava, Maka Mikeladze, Aka Morchiladze, Zaal Samadashvili, Nugzar Shataidze, Nino Tepnadze, and David Dephy.

georgian fiction


The Georgian song for tonight is Waterfall sung by Nodi Tatishvili and Sophie Gelovani


Well finally we reach the end and Ireland ,which I never read enough from recent years having read a lot in my youth .I choose a William trevor of the two Irish stories I ve review but Cheating at canasta is maybe how Uk has fely about Eurovision cheated but I don’t it is great fun I hope you have enjoyed this trip through the books and songs off Europe and Eurovisiong 2013 .

cheating at canastaI won’t suggest any books as lots of great blogs with Irish lit on I suggest Kim of reading matters .My next read will be next year when I plan to read an review all of joyce over next couple of years .







The Human Part by Kari Hotakainen


The Human Part by Kari Hotakainen

Finnish Fiction

Original title – Ihmisen osa

Translator – Owen F Witesman

Source – review copy

Well day two of Maclehose press celebration here on Winstonsdad .I now move north from Italy to Finland and one of the most acclaimed writers Kari Hotakinen .He is a multi talented writer .He started as both a poet and Journalist,he is a columnist for the finnish newspaper   Helsingin Sanomat. He started writing novels in the mid nineties  this is his tenth novel,and his latest and the first I’ve read by him .It won the Runeberg prize Sofi Oksanen has also previously won this prize which awarded every year . .

My name is Salme Sinikka Malmikunnas ,and everything that I say will be printed word for word in this book .The author promised me this .In alarm he even suggested that my words be printed in italics ,which apparently emphasizes the importance of the words .

The opening lines of the novel .

So the premise of The human part is a sort off retelling of the old story of some one selling their life to someone else .In this case it is Salame an elderly lady who ran a button shop ,the cover is rather clever a red thread flows through the city and back to Salame at the bottom , she happens to  meets a writer he has writers block and is looking for a story ,so after much persuading and a wad of money she agrees to sell him her life story she had four but only three are still alive and they all have their own problems but their ,mother tends to view their lives with rose-tinted specs .So she starts her story  to the writer ,tell the story of herself ,husband  and her childrens lives .But what is the writer putting down in  writing as she speaks  and is her vision of the family the same as his vision of her family ? What will he write about her kids lives ? ,What will he make of the dark secret that lies at the back of the family ? All this and more is revealed as you move through her life and that of her kids as well  .

The author interrupted to say that he didn’t intend to turn the Dictaphone on for the whole time we were meeting .As he said this he took a notepad and pencil out of  his pocket .I said he needed to put those away while I was speaking as well .The author shock his head and reminded me that he had paid for goods that he would be taking with him in some form ,

The telling of her tale begins .

So its easy to see Salame and the writers pact to sell her story  to him .As a twist on the old Faustian tale of selling your soul to the devil of course the writer isn’t the devil but he does  makes Salame  begin of view her life in a darker way than she did  .the book is also a clever critic on modern Life in Finland but not just Finland ,we all see the world our own ways and we all see our families one way , because they are our family .This book yet again shows we live in an age of changing values of  the general public  and how much  people willing to reveal all about themselves if the  money  is right .Via this story we see pain and suffering with in the family unit in modern Finland  .This is a book that even thou it is set in Finland  , can ring true to every one in this modern world  .

Have you a favourite Finnish writer ?


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