Sofi Oksanen bats for the Baltics at Frankfurt book fair

Fri Oct 10, 2014 6:18am EDT
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By Kirsti Knolle

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Finnish writer Sofi Oksanen arrives for an interview in a Frankfurt hotel in trademark vivid make-up and theatrical outfit -- a black and violet suit topped with her customary black, blue and purple dreadlocks.

Her gothic appearance chimes with the darkness of her writing and its themes of oppression, banishment, censorship, collusion and rape.

Author of the 2008 award-winning "Purge" and four other published novels, Oksanen is headlining at the Frankfurt Book Fair, the trade's biggest annual get-together, where Finland is this year's guest of honor.

The unsmiling 37-year-old is single-minded, repeatedly turning the conversation back to the message she wants to convey: the world should know about the suffering of the Estonian people under Soviet and Nazi-German occupation.

"We have seen in the Ukrainian war that western European countries actually do not know the history of the eastern European countries and in that way it needs to be written in their own voice," she says.

"For 50 years the voice was the Soviet voice and now it is the time to do something about it. It has to be done, otherwise people do not understand what is happening there," she says.

Oksanen is convinced that, 23 years after the fall of the Soviet Union, Russian President Vladimir Putin's grip on power is a serious threat for Eastern European democracies.

The daughter of a Finnish father and Estonian mother, she grew up in Finland but traveled regularly to the Baltic republic to visit her Estonian grandparents as a child.   Continued...

Finnish author Sofi Oksanen attends the book fair in Frankfurt October 8, 2014. The world's largest book fair runs from today to October 12 and features the literature of Finland as its guest of honour.  REUTERS/Ralph Orlowski