Purge Based on the novel In the early 90s Aliide is an old woman living on her Estonian farm. Then the arrival of the young Russian Zara forces her to confront her past and the young Aliide of the 50s. Hans hid in the cellar of her house. After an interrogation, Aliide betrayed her sister, who is then deported to Siberia with her ten year-old daughter Linda. Aliide is a classic anti-heroine, a woman in whose biography love and history collide in the worst ways possible. In the end she will have betrayed everything and gained nothing — except for a long overdue moment of honesty with herself.

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The purge is pivotal for the family at the centre of her story, but Oksanen also moves beyond the bitter dilemmas of collusion and resistance to deal with the more private horror of sexual violence during both peace and war. The story spans 60 years, opening in after Estonia has regained its independence with the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Aliide Truu, an elderly widow, lives by canning fruit on the outskirts of a forest in western Estonia. She pursues a land restitution case and is tormented by stone-throwers who revile her communist history.

Her daughter has moved to Helsinki because "Estonia was full of people who kept saying that they should have left for Finland or Sweden during the war", a regret "passed on to the next generation with their lullabies". The buried past resurfaces when Aliide takes in Zara, a bruised and dishevelled "dishrag of a girl" from Vladivostok who has turned up in her yard. As the two women circle one another, each suspicious by reflex, the novel moves back and forth in time. We learn that Zara, granddaughter of an Estonian woman exiled to Siberia during the purge, is on the run from Russian pimps after being trafficked via Berlin as a sex worker.

Her gangster pursuers are closing in but, for the widow, "they might as well all come — Mafia thugs, soldiers — Reds and Whites — Russians, Germans, Estonians. Aliide would survive. She always had. The ordeal crushes Aliide: "The only thing left alive was the shame. With independence come recriminations.

One communist claims: "We were all just following orders. We were good people. Aliide and Zara, 40 years apart, bathe and burn their clothes in a ritual "purge" following their experiences of abuse. When Tallinn acquires its first sex shop, the pimps are ex-KGB. For Aliide, "Everything was repeating itself.

Even if the ruble had changed to the kroon. Shot through with sibling jealousy, the plot has a gothic power and implausibility, with people stifled in sealed chambers and corpses left under floorboards. Regime change becomes a pretext for settling personal scores; people move into homes vacated by purged neighbours, conniving against their "rehabilitation" with each blast of glasnost. In a twist reminiscent of German film drama The Lives of Others, uncovered intelligence reports deepen the sense of betrayal.

Yet resistance also survives. Their secret language, writes Oksanen, "sprouted word by word and started to blossom mistily, yellowish, the way dead languages blossom, rustling sweetly like the needle of a gramophone".


Purge by Sofi Oksanen

Conception[ edit ] The novel was originally conceived as a play. The play was written in and produced at the National Theatre of Finland. In —, Estonia was occupied by Nazi Germany. The Soviet rule was re-established by force, and sovietisation followed, mostly carried out in — The forced collectivisation of agriculture began in , and was completed after the mass deportation in March The Soviet authorities confiscated private farms and forced peasants to join collective farms. An armed resistance movement of forest brothers was active until the mass deportations.


Sofi Oksanen




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