ELTE BTK Magyar Nyelvtudományi és Finnugor Intézet

Sadovina, Irina

nyomtatható változat

Sadovina, Irina (London)

Sofi Oksanen's 'Purge' and the marketability of the past: Western consumption of the narratives of Soviet trauma (pdf)

Literature, like journalism, is 'mythinformation'. The author selects elements from recorded history, details and specific aspects of the remembered past and puts them together to make a compelling narrative, which corresponds both to the conventions of the genre and the demands of the public which expects the story to be told in a certain way. This specificity of fictional representations of history depends on the “political and aesthetic economy of mass media” (Morris-Suzuki 2005). The multiple, often contradictory, functions of literary discourse reveal the complexity of the relationship between Western and Post-Socialist Europe. On the one hand, fiction rends the experience, which is foreign to Western audiences, understandable, thus “expand(ing) the circle of the we”. On the other hand, it allows the reader to externalize the notion of evil, placing it within the temporal and geographical boundaries of the Baltic countries during and after the War, thus keeping them in the category of the Other.

This paper will examine the complexity of the effects of representations of history in popular fiction by focusing on Sofi Oksanen's novel Purge. The book, which deals with the traumatic experience of the Soviet occupation, generated public debate in Estonian media over the validity of the vision of the past it presents. The novel's increasing popularity in the West gives the controversy even greater significance as it raises the questions of the nation's image and identity.


Morris-Suzuki, Tessa 2005: The Past Within Us: Media, Memory, History. London, New York: Verso, 17.

Jeffrey C. Alexander, Jeffrey C. – Eyerman, Ron – Giesen, Bernhard – Smelser, Neil J. –  Sztompka, Piotr 2004: Cultural Trauma and Collective Identity Berkeley: University of California Press, 1.

Oksanen, Sofi 2010: Purge. Atlantic Books.