Sofi Oksanen

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Sofi Oksanen
Sofia Oksanen, vinnare av Nordiska radets litteraturpris 2010.jpg
Sofi Oksanen
Born Sofi-Elina Oksanen
(1977-01-07) January 7, 1977 (age 40)
Jyväskylä, Finland
Occupation Writer
Nationality Finnish
Notable works Purge

Sofi Oksanen (born January 7, 1977) is a Finnish writer. Oksanen has published five novels, of which Purge has gained widest recognition, and two plays. She has received several international and domestic awards for her literary work. Her work has been translated into 50 language territories[1] and sold altogether more than two millions.

She was born in Finland, to a Finnish father and Estonian mother.


Sofi-Elina Oksanen was born and raised in Jyväskylä in Central Finland. Her father is a Finnish electrician, her mother an Estonian engineer who grew up in Estonia during the Soviet period and emigrated to Finland in the 1970s.[2] Oksanen studied literature at the University of Jyväskylä and University of Helsinki and later drama at the Finnish Theatre Academy in Helsinki.[3] Oksanen is actively involved in public debate in Finland and comments on current issues in her columns and various talk shows. She is bisexual[4] and has suffered from eating disorders.[5] In 2009 she received an award from the organizers of Helsinki Pride for her activism on behalf of LGBT people in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Russia.[6]


Oksanen first became known for her novel Stalinin lehmät ("Stalin's Cows") (2003),[7] a story about a young girl's eating disorder and the image of Estonian women who had immigrated to Finland. It was nominated for the Runeberg Prize.[8]

Two years later, she released her second novel Baby Jane (2005)[9] about anxiety disorder as well as violence among lesbian couples.

Oksanen’s first play Puhdistus ("Purge") was staged at the Finnish National Theatre in 2007. From out of the play grew Oksanen’s third novel Puhdistus (2008).[10] It ranked number 1 on the bestseller list for fiction in Finland when it was published[11] and has received numerous awards, both in Finland and abroad.

The play Purge had its American première at La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club, in New York City, on February 10, 2011. The text was translated by Eva Buchwald and the production directed by Zishan Ugurlu.[12]

From October 2011, the play was produced in 11 countries, with productions in Norway, France, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Iceland,[13] Lithuania, Germany[14] and Hungary. It premiered in London at the Arcola Theatre from 22 February - 24 March with a new production directed by Elgiva Field.[15]

The novel has been adapted into a film – see Purge (2012 film) – directed by Antti Jokinen, selected as the Finnish entry for the Best Foreign Language Oscar at the 85th Academy Awards.[16]

Purge was adapted into an opera, composed by Jüri Reinvere, and it premiered at Finnish National Opera in 2012.[17]

In 2012, Oksanen published a map of Soviet Gulag prison camps, drawn by Niilo Koljonen, in the National Audiovisual Archive.[18]

Her fourth novel Kun kyyhkyset katosivat ("When the Doves Disappeared") was published in Finland August 31, 2012 and it was the most sold Finnish novel of the year. [19] The title refers to German soldiers catching and eating all the pigeons in Tallinn during the German occupation of Estonia.[4]

The book is translated into English by Lola Rogers: When the Doves Disappeared: A novel. (Knopf, 2015. ISBN 978-0-385-35017-4.)

Oksanen has written a libretto for Kaija Saariaho´s opera. The world premiere is in 2020 at Royal Opera House, Coven Garden, in London.[20]

Oksanen has also written numerous articles published in international newspapers. The topics often are related to freedom of speech, women's rights, Russian politics, information war and immigration. In 2014 Die Welt published her article about information war from the point of view of Eastern European countries. [21] In 2016 UpNorth published the English translation of her article "What´s it like to write about Russia". [22] She also writes about Finlandization. In her article "Lion in a cage" she writes about the influence of Finlandization. [23]


In Finland, Oksanen was awarded the prestigious Finlandia Prize (2008), the Runeberg Prize (2009) and the Nordic Council Literature Prize[24] (2010) for Puhdistus.

Abroad, the novel won the French Fnac prize in 2010, selected from some 300 works published in France amid positive reviews by French critics; it was the first time the prize had been awarded to a foreigner.[25][26] Purge was also the first Finnish work to win the Prix Femina Étranger award.[27] and the first work by a female Finn to win the Nordic Council's Literature Prize.[28]

In 2013, she was awarded the Swedish Academy Nordic Prize, the first Finnish woman to win that prize. The prize was for her body of work. [29]

In 2014 Oksanen was honoured by the Budapest Grand Prize. [30]

In 2015 When the Doves Disappeared received an Italian literary prize for the best translated book of the year, Premio Salerno Libro d'Europa. [31]

In 2016 When the Doves Disappeared was longlisted for Dublin International Literary Award, known before as IMPAC-prize. Also Purge was longlisted for the same prize in 2011.[1]

In 2009, the largest daily Estonian newspaper Postimees named Oksanen Person of the Year; according to the editor-in-chief Merit Kopli the decision was unanimous.[32] In 2010 the Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves decorated Sofi Oksanen with the Order of the Cross of Terra Mariana IV Class. In November 2012 the President of Finland Sauli Niinistö decorated Oksanen with the Pro Finlandia Medal of the Order of the Lion of Finland (awarded to artists and writers).[33]


  1. ^ a b "Sofi Oksanen". Salomons Agency. Retrieved 4 February 2017. 
  2. ^ Katzer, Judith (2010). "Sofi Oksanen: Thin ice threatening to crack". The International Writers Festival, Jerusalem. Haaretz. Retrieved 4 February 2017. 
  3. ^ "TeaK". Retrieved 2014-03-23. 
  4. ^ a b Sofi Oksanen and Luke Harding (April 18, 2015). "Sofi Oksanen: 'We know about British colonialism. Russian colonialism is not well known'" (Interview with subject). The Guardian. Retrieved April 18, 2015. The novel’s title refers to German soldiers who snared and ate pigeons in the Estonian capital, Tallinn 
  5. ^ Larros, Heini (2005). "Sofi Oksanen - outo lintu". City (in Finnish). Retrieved 4 February 2017. 
  6. ^ Pride Around the World, San Francisco Bay Times, Rex Wockner, published: July 16, 2009, accessed Sept 6, 2010
  7. ^ "Stalins Kossor". bazar forlag. Archived from the original on 2009. Retrieved 4 February 2017. 
  8. ^ "Sofi Oksanen" (in Swedish). Archived from the original on March 1, 2010. Retrieved November 12, 2008. 
  9. ^ "Baby Jane". Archived from the original on September 26, 2009. 
  10. ^ Sihvonen, Lauri. "A Body and a Blowfly". Focus on Finnish Writers. Archived from the original on July 9, 2009. Retrieved November 12, 2008. 
  11. ^ "Sofi Oksanen". Archived from the original on September 24, 2008. Retrieved November 12, 2008. 
  12. ^ Helsingin Sanomat, December 19, 2010, p. C 1: "Kvartetti Euroopan kahtiajaosta" by Jukka Petäjä. — Purge at La MaMa Experimental Theatre in New York
  13. ^ "Þjóðleikhúsið". 2011-10-27. Retrieved 2014-03-23. 
  14. ^ "Staatsschauspiel Hannover : Spielplan > REPERTOIRE A-Z > Fegefeuer". 2012-01-26. Retrieved 2014-03-23. 
  15. ^ "Purge". Archived from the original on August 10, 2011. Retrieved October 28, 2011. 
  16. ^ Holdsworth, Nick (19 September 2012). "Finland picks 'Purge' for Oscar contest". Variety. Reed Business Information. Retrieved 19 September 2012. 
  17. ^ "Finnish National Opera to Bring 'Purge' to Stage". yle. 2010. Retrieved 4 February 2017. 
  18. ^ "GULAG - Vankileirien saaristo". 2012-12-04. Retrieved 2014-03-23. 
  19. ^ "Sofi Oksasen Kun kyyhkyset katosivat oli viime vuoden myydyin kirja". Like (in Finnish). 2013. Retrieved 5 February 2017. 
  20. ^ "Sofi Oksanen suostui monikielisyyteen – työstää oopperatekstin Kaija Saariahon pojan kanssa". Helsingin Sanomat (in Finnish). Retrieved 4 February 2017. 
  21. ^ "Wird der Westen Osteuropa wieder verraten?". welt (in German). 2014. Retrieved 4 February 2017. 
  22. ^ "Sofi Oksanen: What is it like to write about Russia". uphorth. Retrieved 4 February 2017. 
  23. ^ Oksanen, Sofi (2015). "A lion in a cage". Eurozine. Retrieved 4 February 2017. 
  24. ^ "Sofi Oksanen has won the Nordic Council Literature Prize 2010 — Nordic cooperation". 2010-03-30. Retrieved 2014-03-23. 
  25. ^ "Sofi Oksanen's 'Purge' Wins Fnac Prize". ERR News. 2010-08-19. Retrieved 2010-09-05. 
  26. ^ "Prix du roman Fnac à "Purge" de la Finlandaise Sofi Oksanen". AFP. 17 August 2010. Retrieved 2010-09-05. 
  27. ^ "Oksanen Wins French Literary Prize". YLE Uutiset. November 2, 2010. Retrieved November 3, 2010. 
  28. ^ Helsingin Sanomat (March 3, 2010). "Sofi Oksanen Wins Nordic Council's Literature Prize". Retrieved November 3, 2010. 
  29. ^ Staff writer (March 15, 2013). "Now Swedish Academy's turn to honour author Oksanen". YLE Uutiset. Retrieved March 16, 2013. 
  30. ^ "Sofi Oksanen mit dem Budapest Grand Prize 2014 ausgezeichnet!". Kippenheuer & Witsch (in German). 2014. Retrieved 5 February 2017. 
  31. ^ "Premio Salerno Libro d'Europa". Premio Salerno Libro d'Europa (in Italian). 2015. Retrieved 5 February 2017. 
  32. ^ Toomas Hõbemägi (2009-12-18). "Postimees names Finnish writer Sofi Oksanen Person of the Year". Baltic Business News. Retrieved 2010-09-07. 
  33. ^ "Sofi Oksaselle Pro Finlandia". Yle (in Finnish). 2012. Retrieved 5 February 2017. 

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