Aki Ollikainen - Nälkävuosi



Aki Ollikainen


Siltala, 141 pages



After reading Nälkävuosi (A Year of Famine) by Aki Ollikainen, it seemed almost surreal to go grocery shopping and see the abundance of food available to us today.


In the freezing winter of 1867, Marja leaves her poor home with her two children, Mataleena and Juho, abandoning her husband who is too sick and weak to move anymore, thinking that she will walk to St. Petersburg where she imagines the tsar does not let the people starve and where people eat soft warm bread. Having literally nothing but the clothes on their backs, they are forced to beg for a few scraps along the way – mainly consisting of thin grey gruel and a few pieces of “pettu” (bread made with the ground up inner bark of pine in lieu of flour) given begrudgingly, for there are throngs of people on the roads to Helsinki and diseases are rampant.


Meanwhile in Helsinki, Theo and Lars, well-to-do brothers ponder and discuss the situation from their privileged positions, and even though they are not suffering from hunger, they do have their own problems, albeit much different from those of the poor.


Hunger so dire it is hard to imagine, people too weak to move anymore, freezing to death along the way, forced to leave somebody behind, watching a daughter die, people who are better off but are still powerless to change the situation; all of this is described vividly in this short novel.  I actually had tears in my eyes at one point.


But it is so well-written and despite the grimness of it all, there are moments of light in the novel and the two worlds in it do meet.



Auf Deutsch:

Das Hungerjahr

Transit, 128 Seiten

Übersetzer: Stefan Moster


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