The representation of victimhood in Sofi Oksanen's novel 'Purge'

David Clarke

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Finnish-Estonian author Sofi Oksanen’s novel Purge (2008) explores one woman’s experience of political violence and its repercussions in Estonia from the 1930s to the 1990s. The novel’s reception in Estonia included accusations that the text painted a simplified version of history, setting ‘good’ Estonian victims against ‘bad’ Russian perpetrators. However, a close reading of the text shows a much more complex and subtle representation of victimhood, which challenges such dichotomies. Seen in the context of current scholarly debates about the meaning of victimhood in contemporary society, the novel offers a warning against the contemporary nationalist tendency to found political community on a shared experience of suffering or persecution which excludes others, pointing instead to the creation of solidarities among different kinds of victims, which potentially transcend national boundaries.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)220-235
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of European Studies
Issue number3
Early online date19 Jun 2015
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2015


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