Purge tells the painful story of the Estonian experience of war, occupation, and exploitation through the lives of two women, Aliide and Zara, who are separated by the gulf of a generation and by a vast stretch of miles, until their fateful meeting at a country farmhouse.
Winner of numerous international prizes, Purge has been praised for its historical scope and the seriousness of the moral questions it raises. It is also a vivid, suspenseful, and moving reading experience.
“Set in 1992, only three years removed from the joyful optimism undammed by the demolition of the Berlin Wall, Purge burns through the mists to show how decades of debasement have twisted society in the former USSR into one characterized by crime and cruelty. Oksanen couches this larger theme within a tight, unconventional crime novel, one punctuated by dreadful silences, shameful revelations and repellent intimacies. Evoking both noir and fairy tales . . . Purge is an engrossing read.” — Oliver Villalon, National Public Radio
“Amid these difficult and virulent historical debates, literature has a place—not to judge but to offer a window, the calm of understanding. Out of these immensely sensitive materials, Oksanen has crafted a stirring and humane work of art.” – Jacob Silverman, The New Republic
“Purge… received much critical praise and became a European bestseller. Thanks to Lola Rogers’ superb English translation, it’s easy to see why… Oksanen’s descriptions are beautiful, with an easy lyricism that is never laboured.” – Deepanjana Pal, Mumbai Boss
“Purge is not simply a condemnation of the pernicious effects of Soviet Communism’s fallen empire; like a great 19th century novel it is concerned with how political and economic systems compete with and come to bear upon individual human frailties and contingencies, and like a Greek tragedy it weaves a hypnotically propulsive, timelessly resonant tale… Purge, whose smooth translation by Lola Rogers seems to capture every nuance and subtlety in the text, is particularly striking in its rich use of metaphor, imagery both subliminal and grotesque, and scenarios paralleled across time and space, all cohering to create a read both emotionally harrowing and as riveting as a thriller.” – Emma Garman, Words Without Borders
“Purge is a flawed, brilliant piece of work that does not easily relinquish its grip on the reader’s imagination.” – Joan Smith, The Times of London
A 2016 Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize nominee
US cover by Patti Ratchford, photo by Debra Lill; UK cover by Ghost, photo by Iosif Badalov