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Mischling – the novel to read in 2017

Mischling by Affinity Konar is a special novel. Braiding the lyricism and historical sweep of All the Light We Cannot See with the psychological intensity of Room, it’s a spell-binding story of survival and resilience in Mengele’s zoo in Auschwitz.

Garlanded with feverish quotes from Pulitzer Prize winners to Man Booker nominees, Mischling is an astonishing novel of those small moments of hope and beauty that light the dark.

It’s 1944 when the twin sisters Pearl and Stasha arrive at Auschwitz. Taking refuge in their identical natures, they comfort themselves with the private language and shared games of their childhood. As part of the experimental population of twins known as Mengele’s Zoo, the girls experience privileges and horrors unknown to others, and they find themselves changes, stripped of the personalities they once shared. When the camp is liberated by the Red Army, the twins are separated. As the young survivors discover what has become of the world, they must try to imagine a future within it.

We’re proud to be publishing in February 2017. Mischling is available for pre-order here.

‘A beautiful novel about the most odious of crimes…If your soul can survive the journey, you’ll be rewarded by one of the most harrowing, powerful, and imaginative books of the year’ Anthony Doerr, bestselling author of All the Light We Cannot See

‘Affinity Konar is an astonishing and fearless writer, whose great gift to us is this book’ Karen Russell, author of Swamplandia!

‘A piercing novel written with chin-up virtuosity. The prose is dazzling, and the story of these twins is moving and searing, and as powerful as the masters of old’ Chigozie Obioma, author of The Fisherman

‘A tale of courage, courageously told – spare and beautiful, riveting and heartrending’ David Wroblewski, author of The Story of Edgar Sawtelle

‘Konar has woven a masterful and poignant account of a pair of twin sisters who cannot be separated, even by the cruelest hand of fate. Her prose is mystical and delicately poetic, and she uses her manifold gifts to tell a deeply engaging story of fortitude and triumph’ Lucette Lagnado, author of Children of the Flames and The Man in the Sharkskin Suit

‘Brace yourself for a novel unlike any you’ve ever read’ Cristina Henriquez, author of The Book of Unknown Americans

International Dublin Literary Award 2017

We are thrilled to have three books nominated for the International Dublin Literary Award 2017 – When the Doves Disappeared by Sofi Oksanen (Atlantic), Prophets of the Eternal Fjord by Kim Leine (Atlantic) and The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood (Allen & Unwin).

This annual award is presented to a novel which, in the opinion of the judges, makes a lasting contribution to excellence in world literature. Nominations are submitted by libraries in major cities world-wide, and this year include 43 novels in translation with works by 42 American, 23 British, 15 Canadian, 10 Australian, 6 New Zealander and 4 Dutch authors. The award has been in existence since 1996.

When the Doves Disappeared is Sofi Oksanen’s latest novel about Communist-ruled, war-ravaged Estonia. The Finnish-Estonian author of Purge, Sofi Oksanen is an internationally bestseller who has been garlanded with literary prizes. Another prizewinner from another part of the globe, Charlotte Wood, has written ‘the masterpiece of feminist horror‘ The Natural Way of Things, which won almost every prize going in Australia and has just been picked by Paula Hawkins, author of The Girl on the Train, as one of her Books of the Year. And from Denmark comes the eerie, exhilarating, Nordic Council Literature prizewinning Prophets of the Eternal Fjord Three exceptional novels that we are extremely proud to publish, and for which we hold high hopes of being selected for the shortlist.

Want to be our Marketing Director?

Love independent publishing? Skilled in all areas of the marketing mix? A unique senior role has become available at Atlantic Books that requires an experienced, creative and adept marketer with an absolute passion for books. You will be responsible for all the marketing across the Atlantic, Corvus and Allen & Unwin lists as part of the Campaigns team.

The Marketing Director role involves managing the marketing budget to develop and implement marketing activity across all platforms to drive profitable sales and strengthen key genres and author brands. You must be adept at consumer and digital marketing, copywriting, social media management and working with third parties, as well as knowledgeable about book marketing trends and campaigns. You will be responsible for trade marketing, sales support and conferences, as well as social media platforms, digital marketing campaigns, acquisition pitches, branding and general marketing. Proven track record with authors and brands is key, as is the ability to work both independently and collaboratively, be creative and able to contribute pro-actively to the successful publishing of commercial fiction, literary fiction and non-fiction.

You’ll be the go-to person for marketing in this small and vibrant indie publisher, so you must be a self-starter and multi-tasker. Good communications skills are key, as is decent knowledge of digital marketing, retail channels and a wide-range of genres. This is the ideal role for an ambitious marketer, ideally with 5+ years’ relevant experience, looking for an exciting new challenge.

Atlantic Books is part of the Independent Alliance, and incorporates Atlantic Books, Corvus, Allen & Unwin and Grove Press. This is a full-time job based in our head office in Bloomsbury, central London. More information available on request. Please email your CV and a covering letter to marionmcgilvary@atlantic-books.co.uk by noon on Wednesday 30th November.

Tony and Susan to Nocturnal Animals

Emma Hare from The Bookseller on translating the book to film:

Translating is a dangerous business. I’ve always remembered a newspaper article by Julian Barnes where he explained how a fairly negligible sentence in Madame Bovary could be translated fifteen different ways, each subtly – or not so subtly – changing the meaning. I’ve been haunted by that article for years. I’d think, what are we losing when we read War and Peace in English? That one sent me on a never-ending quest to learn Russian. To widen the net further, why does a play move us sometimes in ways that a film can’t? And vice versa?

And in the case of Nocturnal Animals, I found myself asking another big question- what does a book lose in translation on its way to the screen?

I read Tony & Susan – now Nocturnal Animals, re-titled for the film release – at breakneck speed. In fact, I finished in just a few sittings (much like Susan herself with Tony’s book).  It’s a gripping, double-layered tale of revenge, told at pace, and through different prisms. I absolutely loved it.

As well as a gripping thriller, I found it to be a story about one’s past, and how we interact with each other; the damage we are able to cause and the effect we have on those close to us. ‘A man is only as good as what he loves’, said Saul Bellow (an early devotee of the book). And so, the question is posited, what happens when the things he loves have gone?

The film has been received with high praise – a ‘deliciously toxic tale of revenge’ said Peter Bradshaw, gleefully, and I’m completely with him. What Tom Ford has done with Nocturnal Animals is to transpose, and re-construct, without changing the brilliance of the story itself. It’s a beautiful film with a wonderful colour palate, but more importantly he respects his source material, bringing out all the subtleties – for me, specifically, that the psychological revenge exacted in the outer narrative is in a sense mirrored, and played out, to shocking effect, in the inner.

He also does something I find even more interesting – he draws himself into the narrative. No spoilers, but look out for the scene with Michael Sheen and Amy Adams, and indeed, Amy Adams’ character as a whole. This is what Austin Wright invited us to do with his book, after all.

I once wrote on this subject in my university entrance exam and concluded that ‘in the end, the pen is mightier than the film camera’. I would say that for me, the film lacks the deliberate restraint, and ambiguity, that the book has in spades. Delicacy is difficult on screen – like film make-up, things always have to be applied a little more thickly. But perhaps it’s time to revisit this phrase. Maybe things don’t always get lost in translation, but that you learn to speak the language of the original and translate it through the weight of your own experience into another kind of art.

Perhaps, it’s not the pen, or the film camera – it’s who is behind the instrument.

Don’t believe me? Read the book, see the film (always in that order), and watch the genius of two different crafts unfold.

by Emma Hare, The Bookseller

Distress Signals shortlisted for Irish Book Awards

The Bord Gais Energy Ireland Book Awards is a vibrant celebration of the flourishing literary talent from the Emerald Isle. And this year sees the suspenseful debut, Distress Signals by Catherine Ryan Howard, shortlisted for the Books Are My Bag Crime Novel of the Year. In the good company of veteran crime writers Tana French and Alex Barclay, this is a testament to the talent of Cork-based Catherine, whose debut novel the Irish Times called ‘a highly confident and accomplished debut novel, impeccably sustained, with not a false note’.

Set around mysterious disappearances on a cruise ship, Distress Signals is a ‘gripping, smart, and fast-moving read’ (Christine Carbo), ‘clever and compulsive’ (Irish Examiner) and ‘pacey, suspenseful and intriguing’ (Liz Nugent).

You can cast your vote for Crime Book of the Year, and all other categories, here.

From Tony and Susan to Nocturnal Animals

By any standards, Tony and Susan was definitely something of a slow bloomer.  The book was author Austin Wrights fourth novel after a hiatus of seventeen years – originally published back in 1993 when the author was seventy-one, and had just retired from a long and illustrious academic career at the University of Cincinatti, where he taught literature. Despite rave reviews, including a rare and effusive accolade from none other than Saul Bellow who describe it as ‘beautiful’ – like all too many great books, it was forgotten, disappearing to huddle on the dusty shelves of second-hand bookstores, its praise forgotten, its story untold.

And without its editorial champions here at Atlantic [pause for the noise of us blowing our own trumpet] there it would still languish – silenced (alongside said trumpet).  Since Atlantic’s re-publication in 2010, the book has gone on to delight, astonish and disturb a whole new audience of appreciative readers.  With its heady mix of thriller-like, almost painful, suspense and the superb quality of the writing, Tony and Susan was established as that rare thing – a page turning work of literary fiction that discomforts as it compels, is both internal, thoughtful and yet almost pulpy in pace.

Authors from Ruth Rendell to Donna Leon and reviewers in the quality press and the five star echelons of Amazon, have been impressed by the skillful ‘book-within a book’ narrative.  Even Ian McEwan is a fan.  Championing the book on Swedish television – as you do –  he said he wished he’d thought of the idea and described it as ‘completely addictive’.  But still, it didn’t quite hit the top spot it deserved.  Until now, because it is ready for its close up, and coming to a multiplex near you, courtesy of legendary designer and film director Tom Ford in early November, and of course, Atlantic is reissuing the novel to coincide with the movie premiere.

NOCTURNAL ANIMALS, based on our very own Tony and Susan, starring none other than JAKE GYLLENHAAL and AMY ADAMS, will be released in the UK on the 4th November.  And if the movie is anything as tense as the novel, be prepared to be gripped.

ABOUT THE BOOK

This is one of those stories that are better avoided at bedtime if you want to get to sleep – it will keep you up long after it would have been sensible to turn off the light.  The Tony and Susan of the title, are not a couple as the you to expect. Susan –  a middle-class, middle-aged woman whose comfortable life, and marriage, is disrupted by the arrival of a manuscript written by her ex-husband and childhood-sweetheart; while the incredibly believable and ultimately tragic, Tony, is the main character in the manuscript.  The book takes the reader, and Susan, on a journey that is not always comfortable but is nevertheless always riveting.

Most readers are amazed that they hadn’t heard of Austin Wright before, a sentiment that, hopefully, even more people will share after the movie.

‘ a superb and thrilling novel … an  extraordinary metafiction  about reading and writing’. Ian McEwan

ABOUT THE MOVIE

‘Wildly gripping…terrifically absorbing’ ✭✭✭✭✭  Peter Bradshaw, Guardian

Directed and produced by Tom Ford, starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Amy Adams.

Appearing at the BFI FILM FESTIVAL HEADLINE GALA –14-16 OCTOBER 

 

Watch the trailer here

 

 

Chris Beckett on Daughter of Eden

Chris Beckett – the writer of simply beautiful fiction and the prize-winning author of the Arthur C Clarke award for Dark Eden, the first novel in his trilogy –   speaks here about why Daughter of Eden, the story’s conclusion, published in October, means so much to him.

It’s a good feeling when a new book finally makes it out into the world, and I’m really excited about Daughter of Eden, my third and final novel to be set on the sunless planet, Eden.

One of the things that makes Daughter of Eden different and special to me is the character of its main protagonist, Angie Redlantern.  (She is also, incidentally, the novel’s sole narrator, in contrast to the other books which were told by a range of characters.)

Angie appears in Mother of Eden as Starlight’s childhood friend.  Starlight abandons her to pursue her own adventures, and much later learns that Angie herself set out on a different adventure of her own, following a shadowspeaker called Mary across to Mainground.  Starlight is appalled that her old friend should have thrown in her lot with one of these spirit mediums/preachers who play so shamelessly on the gullibility of their listeners.

In Daughter of Eden, Angie has been discarded by the shadowspeaker, is married (or so we would call it on Earth) to a very uninspiring man, and, with three small children to care for, is eking out a precarious living in the forest near to the softly glowing sea that in Eden is known as Worldpool. Angie is a batface.  That is, she has what we on Earth would call a severe case of harelip and cleft palate.  And for that reason, and perhaps other reasons too, she is not a very self-confident person and certainly not a natural leader in the way that John is in Dark Eden or Starlight is in Mother of Eden. But, as it turns out, events place Angie right in the centre of things.

It’s not giving very much away to say that much of the book takes place against the backdrop of a war between the two patriarchal societies that dominate the human population of Eden.  But, that said, the battles and leaders are not in the foreground of this book.  Most of the action takes place among people fleeing from the fighting with their children and whatever possessions they can carry.  And the central figures of this story, for me, are five women –Angie, Mary, Starlight, Gaia and Trueheart– who all, for various different reasons, find themselves up in Circle Valley, where humans first set foot on Eden and where Dark Eden opened.

As to the ending, I don’t think it’s going to be quite what readers of the other books might expect, but it brings Angie very close to the beginnings of the human story of Eden.  And I at least find it a very satisfying conclusion.

The Man Who Spoke Snakish and The Women Who Loved Bears

What a book.  Think ‘Game of Thorns’, rather than ‘Thrones’, with talking animals, wars, battles, friendly vipers and people with names straight from an Ikea catalogue – what’s not to like?  A huge bestseller in its native Estonia, the evocatively titled The Man Who Spoke Snakish by Andrus Kivirähk, is an inventive, entertaining, moving and even – at times –  gently humorous tale, set in a mythical Medieval Estonian world of vast forests and sunlit clearings; of charmed wolves kept like cattle for their milk, and toiling Teutons, luring the forest people away from their traditional way of life with promises of bread, barley gruel and Jesus Christ.  Add in Trump – incidentally many of these Teutons all have mops of yellow hair – and you’ve got the Mid-West, so it seems strange that they were ever tempted to up sticks and get busy actually working for a living.  However, the shiny newly cultivated world of spinning wheels and scythes, of looms and cloth – the Medieval equivalent of MTV and iPads, had proven too difficult to resist for most of the forest dwellers which left just a few souls living as nature intended deep in the dark forests.  Our hero, Leemut, is one of them, and also one of the last people still able to speak the ancient language of Snakish and communicate with animals – or at least those animals that still know the old ways and understand him.

It’s a grown-up fairy tale, part fantasy, part allegory, part cautionary tale.  Here, bears are romantic, lustful creatures that women find irresistible – despite not being very bright – and many a cuckold husband returns home to find bear fur in their sheets, and even, in Leemut’s father’s case, the actual bear in flagrante with his wife.  The bear promptly bites his father’s head off.  Despite the ‘whose been sleeping in my bed’ trope, this is definitely not a Goldilocks story – the only people eating porridge are the village dwellers, which Leemut’s mother, says tastes like vomit.  She’d much rather have a haunch of venison.  It’s the Dukan diet with owl eggs for her.  She’s a woman who likes a raw steak and thinks bread – the Big Mac of the village is probably poisonous.

So successful has the novel been that there’s even an Estonian board game full of creatures and runes, and characters from the book.  We’re all longing to play it, but since it’s in Estonian with the pithy title of Mees, kes teadis ussisõnu, we – like the lost tongue of Snakish, cannot understand a word.

There’s a copy of the book for the first person to explain the rules to us.  Google translate only goes so far, and trying to decipher it has turned us all into blank-eyed, slack-jawed beasts who, in the book, would explode on hearing just a few hisses of Snakish.  That’s the internet for you, folks.

Read this excellent review here, no really, read it – you’ll be hungry to read more.

Marion McGilvary on Cheryl Strayed & Tiny Beautiful Things

Cheryl Strayed‘s uncompromising, in-your-face ‘live your own truth’, ‘honour the universe’, hippy-dippy American words of wisdom make compulsive reading. I loved Tiny Beautiful Things. Yes, love, love,  it. Despite being a book of advice columns from the sad, conflicted and troubled, it’s not mawkish – it couldn’t be – not with Strayed illustrating her replies with tales from her own roller-coaster past.  In fact, right from the get go, in the intro, when you’re presented with the equivalent of a glass of straight, burn your throat out, meths in the form of a throw away remark about Cheryl’s childhood, you know you’re not chatting to Claire Rayner.  This is no cosy, cup of tea and a chat, sort of advice.  It’s much more relevant, compassionate and to the point than this.  I was shocked by the first revelation; but a few pages on when she talks to a woman who’s had a miscarriage and says ‘women will be crying reading this’  I was.  Then I went on crying.

Somehow, Strayed manages to be blonde and inspiring, extremely wise, kind, never patronising and yet gut-wrenchingly honest at the same time.  But even though the advice is for many very diverse situations, most of which I hope never to encounter in my own life, I took a lot away from the book.  I also sent copies to both my daughters and hopefully imparted a little of Cheryl’s sense.  She’s no pussy and she treads on ground I’d be wary of, but she’s also incredibly forgiving; empathetic yet stringent.  It’s the sort of book I’d like to give to all my friends and all their friends, and would be disappointed, hurt even, if they didn’t like it too.

It’s not for the easily offended who think we’re living in a fluffy, bunny universe, the innocently unconflicted, or the person who doesn’t want other to ‘share’ their ‘stuff’ but just wants to chat about the weather…  If that’s you, you probably wouldn’t want to read anything I liked, and we’d have nothing in common.  I used to be an agony aunt in another life but the problems I dealt with were made up by the editorial team of the magazine I wrote for and it was not a gig I liked.  Answering problems about made-up people’s made-up sex life in ways that are palatable for a national broadsheet was one of the more stupid things I’ve ever done, particularly as honesty was neither prized nor printable.  Cheryl tackles difficult circumstances with tact, but she doesn’t mince her words.  I’m definitely in Cheryl’s club – a happy founder, evangelizing member, so step up and be saved.

Tiny Beautiful Things is compulsive, bright, brainy, punchy, forthright, warm, spiky and extremely strong.  And I’m not just saying that because I’m paid to. It’s a total labour of love. Get a copy now.  Get two and give one to a friend.  If you love it – let me know and then buy a copy of Wild. If you don’t. What’s wrong with you?


Cheryl Strayed is the author of the critically acclaimed novel , the huge New York Times Best selling memoir Wild and the collection of essays Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Someone Who’s Been ThereHer work has appeared in numerous magazines and journals, including The New York Times Magazine, The Washington Post Magazine, Allure, and The Rumpus. She lives in Portland, Oregon.

‘No More Betrayal’ Sofi Oksanen on Putin

Reprinted here by permission of House of Anansi and Groundwood Books

Russia’s annexation of Crimea, in blatant violation of international law, is a highly symbolic expression of power. In an exclusive article for the Swedish newspaper Expressen, Sofi Oksanen exhorts the West to put a stop to Putin’s colonialism.


I wake up every morning wondering if today is the day when eastern Europe is going to be sold out again. I check my mobile, and when I see it hasn’t yet announced anything too alarming, even if the news isn’t exactly cheering, I switch on my computer and go through the news headlines, still wondering if it’s going to happen today, or tomorrow.

The day when I will only be able to cope with the news by concentrating on observing my own reactions and those of the world around me, because it is the duty of a writer to remember the moments when the pages of history turn. A new age has already begun. The inter-Cold War period – 1989-2014 – is over.

The last time eastern Europe and the Baltic states were sold out to the Soviet Union and its sphere of influence under the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, a manoeuvre which contributed to the Soviet empire reaching its greatest strength. An unpaid workforce was locked away in the slave camps of the gulag. Now Russia has made clear in both word and deed that it intends to restore the empire to its former glory. Brezhnev’s doctrine has been updated and adopted by Putin:

Russia believes it has the right to intervene in the actions of independent states if they appear to be moving too far towards the West, and if Russia considers itself to have authority over the area in question.

The Russian Duma is currently pushing through a law which would facilitate the annexation of regions that were previously Soviet, and the peoples of eastern European and Baltic countries are wondering if they have once again put their faith in the West in vain. For the past decade the West has paid little attention to eastern Europe, except as asource of cheap labour and profitable production facilities. The illegal annexation of Crimea is of great symbolic value: this is the first region since the Soviet period to have been taken from an independent state and incorporated into Russia. It is also a test, an exploration of western tolerance and morals: will the West dare to stand by its promises – or will it betray eastern Europe again?

The fallen empire’s counterattack began back in 2005, when Putin declared that the collapse of the Soviet Union was the greatest geopolitical disaster of the twentieth century. The way history is taught is one of the methods by which this thesis is promoted, its retrograde content motivated by geopolitical interests. This version of history is intended to reawaken Russian national pride and act as a reminder that belonging to the Russian empire was beneficial to the peoples of other nations. The former vassal states themselves take a rather different view.

For years people in the West have politely applauded Putin’s speeches about his country’s “democratic development”. Putin himself has defined his societal model as “managed” democracy. This sort of government is no democracy, but the West fell for the explanation, as it did for other euphemisms from the FSB (today’s KGB) that were intended to calm the rest of the world while the elite in power in the Kremlin made preparations for Putin’s brave new world.

The Soviet Union was rehabilitated, and journalism became a suicidal career choice. Since 2012 Putin’s elite have been repatriating their assets from the West in order to guarantee the independence of those in power.

One of the founding principles of the European Union is that we should at least try to learn something from the past. The Eurasian Union promoted by a clique within Putin’s elite is diametrically opposed to this. It is based upon the choicest bits of Stalinism and National Socialism, the lessons of whose propaganda are consistently followed. And this way of exercising power has an inexhaustible budget.

In 2005 the English-language television channel Russia Today was set up to serve the Kremlin’s propaganda purposes, with an annual budget of more than 300 million dollars. Because the channel’s programming looks like news, everyone believes that it is news, whereas in fact it is focused on disseminating Russian “truths” to the West, as former employees have admitted. Only with the Ukrainian crisis has this propaganda become so shameless that it no longer makes any attempt to disguise its intentions to the West, as it had previously. This is a considerable change.

In the West, editors are used to presenting the opinions of various parties in order to come up with an article that comes somewhere close to the truth. But this is the wrong way to go about things when one of those parties is blatantly lying. Acting in this way also means that the western media are indirectly repeating the message promoted by the Kremlin’s siloviks [literally “people of power”, used to denote senior politicians with a background in the security services]. At the very heart of Kremlin’s policy is a war of information, full of claims and counterclaims, because this is the cheapest way of waging war and conquering territory without tanks. Fear, provocation, projection and propaganda: the Kremlin’s elite are masters of these. And these are the weapons that are always used to justify occupations, both to native populations and the outside world.

To Russia, the annexation of the Crimean peninsular, legally part of Ukraine, was a simple nut to crack. The invasion didn’t lead to any Russian casualties that could have brought mothers out onto the streets, and they managed to present the West with a narrative in which the annexation was rendered understandable, seeing as a large proportion of the region’s population is Russian-speaking. The majority of these arrived in Crimea as a result of Stalin’s mass transplantations, whose purpose was to mix up the populations of the Soviet Union’s vassal states and russify theregion. Similar areas can be found in various parts of eastern Europe. And now these people are being exploited by Putin’s gang. But the fact is that the original inhabitants of Crimea, the Tatars, have already been forgotten. Their experience of Stalin’s population policies culminated in genocide.

At the time of writing, the doors of houses occupied by Tatars are being marked with crosses. Does that sound familiar?

Russia has been trying to destabilise the independence of eastern Europe and the Baltic states for a long time now. Back in 2008 Putin described Ukraine as an artificial state. Russia has called into question Ukraine’s right to inviolable borders, and through a skilful construction of lies has managed to make it look almost like a Russian state. There’s nothing new about this strategy: this is what happened to the young Austrian state in the 1930s, and led to the Anschluss in 1938. The Baltic states have had to listen to this sort of rhetoric from Russia for years now. The rest of the world knows relatively little about these countries – just like Ukraine. Consequently the Russian agenda – to question their right of self-determination – is by no means an impossible task.

In what passes as the Russian media, there have long been stories about Russians being kept in concentration camps in Estonia (vintage of lie: 2007). It is also claimed that the children of Russian tourists could be kidnapped from hotels in Finland, which is historically regarded as belonging to Russia (vintage of lie: 2013). When this sort of thing is being pumped out into the ether year after year, it is hardly surprising when a majority of the Russian populace gradually begins to adopt a suspicious attitude towards the West. And this is precisely the point of it. This way people can be mentally mobilised for war and previously amicable ethnic groups goaded against one another.

Imaginary enemies are exactly what Putin’s clique needs in order to maintain their popularity and preserve the assets they have acquired for themselves by highly questionable means. Any loss of power would expose the corruption that allowed them to accumulate such wealth. Which is exactly what happened to Ukraine’s deposed President Yanukovych. For the time being, the Russian leadership is concentrated on a small group of siloviks, and Putin – the richest man in Europe and Russia – is its outward face. The educational background of the group’s members differs from that of western politicians, and has its basis in the FSB and KGB. There is no higher status within the Russian power hierarchy. In the days of the Soviet Union, at least the Party used to be above the KGB.

Anyone who still believes that Russia is using its “compatriot policy” to protect the interests of ethnic Russians outside the country’s borders is advised to do a quick reality check and remember how Hitler made use of ethnic Germans. Everyone who has ever visited Russia knows how little those in power really care about Russians. And it was Russian actions under the guise of “humanitarian aid” that left South Ossetia in such a wretched state.

The Kremlin is not particularly fond of the variously coloured revolutions in neighbouring countries. So people inclined towards Moscow are installed in the governments of countries riddled with corruption. While he was in power, Yanukovych managed to arrest historians investigating Soviet crimes, and personally expressed his doubts about the Holodomar, the catastrophic famine that was actually an act of genocide instigated by the Soviets in the early 1930s. His policies also included limitations on freedom of speech, and homophobic propaganda. Yanukovych acted as a Moscow-inclined leader is expected to act. But the people protested, and spoiled Putin’s well-progressed plans to quietly unite Ukraine with Russia.

It’s time for the West to say no to Russia’s intention of expanding its territory beyond the country’s borders, and this cannot be done by diplomatic dialogue. It is impossible to negotiate with an adversary who consistently lies about their goals. Russia has already shown that it adopts a diplomatic façade merely to buy time to transport heavy weaponry to the border. To buy time to push through laws supporting puppet regimes. The West has tried to understand the policies being put into practice by the Kremlin, but there’s really no need to understand colonialism. It is simply greed, and it has to be stopped.

Or would we try to show understanding if Queen Elisabeth II decided to revive British colonialism? Would you try to comprehend Angela Merkel’s thinking if she threatened to restore the German Reich? What if German television started to broadcast children’s programmes in which stuffed toys were shown preparing for war? What if Germany were run by people trained by the Gestapo? How would you feel if the Germans regarded Hitler as one of the greatest men in their country’s history, the way Stalin is regarded in Russia? What if Germany declared that Europe (or “Gayrope”, as the Russians call it) was governed by a homosexual conspiracy, as has recently been claimed in a Russia bolstered by anti-gay propaganda legislation? Does anyone remember who it was who claimed that western degeneracy was the result of a Jewish conspiracy?

No-one would tolerate this, not even for an instant. You know that there is no way you could ever explain to your grandchildren why you let it happen.


Sofi Oksanen was born in Finland and a former graduate of the Finnish Theatre Academy. She is the author of three novels. Purge is her first novel to be published in English translation. She lives in Helsinki.