Kun kyyhkyset katosivat

Kun kyyhkyset katosivat When The Doves Disappeared

The Estonian Quartet #3

When the Doves Disappeared is a story of occupation, resistance, and collaboration in Estonia during and after World War II. The novel follows the experiences of three characters: Roland, a principled independence fighter; his cousin Edgar, who will do almost anything to hide his secrets and maintain his connection to those in power; and Edgar’s wife Juudit, who is buffeted in turns by her love for a German officer, her fear of returning to her unhappy, unconsummated marriage, and her bond with the idealistic Roland.

When The Doves Disappeared is the third novel in The Estonian Quartet - a series depicting the division and annexation of Europe, and the consequences that reverberate from the 30s well into to the present.


  • “During and after the Second World War, the boundaries and power structures of Europe changed dramatically. In this fourth novel, Oksanen, who has won the Swedish Academy Nordic Prize and Budapest Grand Prize, traces those changes through the lives of one Estonian family. Focusing mostly on Roland's passion for a free Estonia, Juudith's quest to be cherished, and Edgar's machinations, Oksanen's characters must navigate the ever-changing political landscape that means danger for everyone, especially those who, like Edgar, lust for power and recognition. The fragmented narrative, adeptly translated by Rogers, switches between the Third Reich and the height of Soviet power, using these two time periods to make ideal use of dramatic irony, to render understandable collusion with the enemy as well as portray its consequences, and to evoke sympathy for a man whose ambition leads him to commit terrible atrocities. Oksanen manages to relate these stories without horror or judgment, and reminds the reader that, whatever else people in wartime may do, they are human creatures, and not the one-dimensional monsters that history makes them seem to be.”

    Publishers Weekly *Starred Review*, US

  • “Oksanen depicts civilian life in wartime and under communist oppression in rich historical detail, skillfully manipulating chronology and threading clues subtly throughout the narrative as suspense builds. Highly recommended.”

    Library Journal *Starred Review*, US

  • “Sofi Oksanen is the most exciting writer of the present century in Estonia. No other author's work has been discussed as heatedly, admired as much, decried as much, doubted as much and crowned with as many prizes. /.../ This kind of storytelling can be called terrorist storytelling: this is how you can hurt the reader most without even giving him a chance to ask why. But Sofi Oksanen knows exactly why. Sofi Oksanen's story plants an aching, painful spot inside you, that won't go away, so that eventually you have to touch it. And then you see before your eyes the entire pattern of our recent history and there is a humming in your ears like the sound of the Niebelung hammers somewhere deep inside the earth. And indeed, this rumble has not ended yet, the hammering goes still on.”

    Eesti Ekspress, Estonia

  • “Oksanen captures both the futility of the citizens of a tiny country who yearn for freedom and the dark heart of an opportunist who would sell out his own family in order to survive. This is powerful fiction that stirs history, war crimes, and psychology into a compelling mix.”

    Booklist, US

  • When The Doves Disappeared is without a doubt the greatest landmark yet in Oksanen's production, a pure masterpiece. … Oksanen writes about this historically dynamic but humanitarianly tragic double occupation with the analytical sense of a historian paired with the passion of a novelist. The combination is groundbreaking. … Purge was only a prelude to this carefully and dedicatedly developed masterpiece… Oksanen skillfully weaves violent world history into a number of individual portraits. In the occupied Estonia that is depicted in the novel there are capable men and women, but Oksanen doesn't merely render them as exciting stereotypes: she always tries to achieve real, whole people.”

    Kauppalehti, Finland

  • “Oksanen masterfully constructs her world; paranoia and fear drip like sweat from the pages.”

    Me Naiset, Finland

  • “The unsolved murder of Rosalie, which leads to fateful choices, forms the run-up to the skillfully constructed intrigue that keeps the reader captivated and reveals new plot turns till the very last page. … The novel is thoroughly armed with background facts, and grippingly recounts the two occupations; the cruelty and the atmosphere, the Estonians' hope for independence, the expectations and disappointments. Apart from the greater historic strokes, rural and urban life during the two time periods is depicted convincingly and in detail.”

    Suomen Kuvalehti, Finland

  • “Sofi Oksanen's new novel was worth waiting for… As in her previous works, the personal is strongly political also here. The individual, who is torn in the crossfire between different ideologies, crouches in the wings that conceal secrets, shame and fear. Although certain decisions can have terrifying consequences, they are not necessarily a result of evil. A betrayal can be the only route to survival. Oksanen is a master at rendering people in precisely those circumstances.”

    Kaleva, Finland

  • When The Doves Disappeared is powerful and convincing. Oksanen lives up to all the expectations… Oksanen unites political history, micro history, and fiction in an intelligent way. She explores how human kind adapts to ever-changing circumstances.”

    MTV3, Finland

  • “A complex, captivating and challenging novel. /.../ Oksanen portrays a world where truth has been reduced to a commodity and is the realm of powerful rulers. /…/ Oksanen's skill as a storyteller and language accommodator is obvious, while the plot strands intersect each other in a intricate pattern.”

    Turun Sanomat, Finland

  • “Great books always contain many layers. Oksanen's novel can therefore be read as social commentary, love story or psychological drama. /…/ On one level it is also a thriller where the tension and the mysteries increase page by page, and the questions that arise are not answered until the very end. /…/ Oksanen has written a magnificent and gripping novel that through its intensity irremediably sweeps the reader along into a world that prevails also during the pauses from reading as well as long after having finished the book.”

    Ilkka, Finland

  • “The plot develops like a spy thriller about incredible personal relationships… The novel is characterized by the powerful portrayal of the spirit and aesthetics of three decades. The uncertainty, the desperation, as well as the atmosphere of ideals and selfishness are baffling. The trivial betrayals adopt human dimensions. The illustration of urban and rural areas is physically exact. /.../ As in Purge the mysteries take on a new meaning in the final pages of the book. The personal relations conceal truly poignant surprises. /.../ If she wanted, Oksanen could easily devote herself to writing thrillers. The intrigue of this novel is almost fastidiously intricate.”

    Demari, Finland

  • “Sofi Oksanen has clearly done her research. In her new novel the times of war and occupation feel real, they look real, and the persons are real – some even literally.”

    Helsingin Sanomat, Juha Rislakki,

  • “At first it seems Oksanen is turning to the new literary movement that uses the blueprint form to reflect the horrors of the Second World War, a movement in which Jonathan Littell's The Kindly Ones is a corner stone. But the further one travels in the novel, the more clearly emerges the inevitable Franz Kafka's model: the center of power always gets away, no matter how many times the mutilated man manages to slip across from the side of the trampled on to the ones who trample. /…/ With overwhelming power Oksanen shows how devastating the official lie and the silence is to individuals as well as to personal relationships and the country as a whole.”

    Helsingin Sanomat, Antti Majander,

  • “It is Oksanen's talent for finding convincing voices to carry the narration that makes this novel such a powerful and moving story. In many ways it can be said to have a kinship with the great Russian classics, as a story with many layers. At the same time this novel is so modern in its emphasis of the documentary subject matter and in its analytical attitude to the historical truth. /.../ The book also has some clear thriller-like qualities. The story offers a lot of suspense and many surprising twists. /.../ Sofi Oksanen presents a large cast of characters, that all contribute to providing this grandiose story with necessary intimacy and sensuality. It is the human cost in the shadow of war and tyranny that is Sofi Oksanen's concern. And in When The Doves Disappeared she demonstrates more clearly and convincing than ever before what a unique literary talent she possesses.”

    Dagsavisen, Norway

  • “Sofi Oksanen is the biggest Nordic author of the moment... What a remarkable writing ability this young Finnish woman possesses... She writes with a prose that is constantly alive and pulsating without for a second losing the perfect pitch.”

    Allehanda, Sweden

  • “Sofi Oksanen's new novel shows what fiction can be when it is at its very best... In terms of style, [this novel] is a step up for Oksanen... Oksanen has written several dazzling portraits of women in different kinds of patriarchal and economic subordination, women whose vulnerability is obvious but who are never denied the right to be more than just victims. Juudit is Oksanen's perhaps most complex character so far – difficult to like but easy to understand. Also the plot is Oksanen's most intricate so far. The threads between the three main characters Edgar, Juudit and Roland are so skillfully woven across multiple time frames that the entire picture doesn’t emerge until after the last page. Oksanen could without a doubt write an utterly brilliant whodunit. However, there are innumerable reasons to rejoice in the fact that she has greater ambitions than that. At its best, fiction acts as an alternative historiography, which humanizes and adds nuance to a time and place, and which makes us question given truths. When The Doves Disappeared does just that, both in practice and in theory.”

    Sydsvenskan, Sweden

  • When the Doves Disappeared is an engaging and extraordinarily well-written novel about a dark time. But it is also an important reminder to read every historic description, including this one, critically. That the novel succeeds in rendering the difficulties of historiography in such an unsentimental way, without losing its power as a work of fiction, makes it particularly fascinating.”

    Svenska Dagbladet, Sweden

  • “What makes the book great art and cements Oksanen's position as one of the Nordic coutries' absolutely foremost literary voices, is her wonderful literary style. On each and every page I pause in admiration of her metaphors... If Sofi Oksanen's way of letting the novel restlessly orbit a dark core brings to mind epic masters like William Faulkner and Joyce Carol Oates, she is rather an heir of Eyvind Johnson in her processing of the historical substance.”

    Expressen, Sweden

  • “A courageous, important and very good book. A book about how history and politics completely occupies people's lives, shapes and destroys them.”

    Aftonbladet, Sweden

  • “Sofi Oksanen writes with an artistically impeccable mix of raw brutality and an emotional wealth of detail. As a reader, one is drawn into the story by the text's transmission of strong emotions: rage, disgust, grief and compassion. But above all it is fear that constantly trembles over each page. The plot creates an atmosphere like that of le Carré.”

    Östgöta Correspondenten, Sweden

  • “Sofi Oksanen has spoiled me with her smart and sharpened prose, which at its best reaches in under the ribs and with ruthless clarity points out where it hurts the most, in mankind and in society.”

    Göteborgs-Posten, Sweden

  • “In Sofi Oksanen, Estonia has received a remarkably talented chronicler who also in her third novel about the country manages to shine on surprisingly many levels. It's so good it makes you want to stamp your feet, that a single pen can write so superiorly in terms of composition and at the same time succeed, thanks to a finely tuned ear, to listen deeply into the bodies that whirl around in this dramatic, colorful and quite complex prose... The action is turned up to a level on par with Quentin Tarantino and Leo Tolstoy

    Klassekampen, Norway

  • “Suspenseful, moving, horrifying, and very skillfully written.”

    Helsingborgs Dagblad, Sweden

  • “Finnish-Estonian superstar Sofi Oksanen knows what she's doing... Her prose is razor sharp, but also beautiful, and the construction is smart… In addition, it's a bit dizzying, in a good way, to imagine the amount of research that must lie behind a book like this.”

    Fæderlandsvennen, Norway

  • “A brilliant novel... Playwright Sofi Oksanen creates scenes that burrow deep into the reader in a uniquely dense, well-translated prose.”

    Verdens Gang, Norway

  • “As living history and intense composition, Sofi Oksanen's new novel rises above contemporary stories… Captivating like a thriller.”

    Dagens Næringsliv, Norway

  • “Sofi Oksanen has written another masterful novel… reinforcing her position as one of the greatest Nordic authors”

    Weekendavisen, Denmark

  • “This is an extraordinary story, written in an extraordinary way: a complex and skillful construction, a fascinating narration that plays with the realism of everyday life, the transition from 'I' to 'He', the fog thrown on some elements that gradually lifts, the beauty of certain portraits.”

    Le Soir, France

  • “A masterful polyphony”

    La vie, France

  • “A fascinating family saga spanning from 1940 to 1965 in the heart of a country experiencing the caprice of history.”

    Nice matin, France

  • “With great skill, Sofi Oksanen gradually weaves her web and turns her cards over. Very well-written thanks to its suspense and portrait of an era, When The Doves Disappeared should ensure a new success.”

    Livres hebdo, France

  • “With an even more ambitious construction than her previous novel, When The Doves Disappeared confirms the dazzling literary talent of Sofi Oksanen, who combines personal and historical narratives with as much efficacy as pertinence.”

    Le Journal du Dimanche, France

  • “Sofi Oksanen's remarkably dense novel, rich in dialogues, shows the depth of a tear. It shows us how, seventy years later, the resulting pain has been passed down through two generations.”

    Paris Match, France

  • “After Purge and Stalin's Cows, Sofi Oksanen continues her Estonian fresco and confirms her literary power. [...] Sofi Oksanen validates her impressive literary mastery.”

    Les Inrockuptibles, France

  • “This masterful and deeply touching novel beautifully blends fiction and historical reality.”

    Lire, France

  • “The mastery of dialogues, together with the harshness of her writing, her ability to portray the inner turmoil of the characters that are battered by the ill winds of history, makes her novels unforgettable.”

    Marianne, France

  • “An unusually well-balanced novel, combining a very complex narrative architecture with an emblematically simple story... Sofi Oksanen constantly changes the tone and the style of the novel; she shifts perspectives and goes back and forth in time, without the reader ever getting lost. That in itself is a small miracle that confirms the exceptional skills of the writer... An explosive text with a dark heart, this story is a reflection of history: merciless.”

    Le Monde, France

  • “Suggestions of psychological threat make this novel great and compelling. Oksanen does not explain anything, but just shows what people are capable of in times of war.”

    Trouw, Netherlands

  • “The end is masterful and leaves a both painful and cathartic shiver down your spine. A powerful elegy, but in no way sentimental. Where do you find that these days? Read it and spread the word on Sofi Oksanen!”


    Knack Focus, Belgium

  • “Another exciting work by Sofi Oksanen, the acclaimed author of Purge. She eerily examines a complex era in which it was not easy to set an honorable model of behavior.”

    El País, Spain

  • “Elegant and multi-dimensional. A new jewel by Oksanen.”

    El Periódico, Spain

  • “The author once again convinces the reader that she is talking about something that concerns her... A powerful novel thanks to the thoroughness with which the characters are built... In her rigorous approach to historical events we discern her determination to write great novels. And she achieves it.”

    La Vanguardia, Spain

  • “Sofi Oksanen continues to dominate the story, from beginning to end, with a harsh and chilling poetic force. Interweaving deep and personal motivations, hidden love stories or insatiable ambition, she weaves a perfect piece of literary jewelry... Oksanen alternates this epic grandeur with kaleidoscopic psychological precision.”

    ABC, Spain

  • “A chilling story of loss and betrayal . . . The novel is a piercing look at characters striving to retain their humanity amid fear, violence, and secrecy.”

    The New Yorker, US

  • “Given recent events in Crimea, many in tiny Estonia are again anxious. Their homeland and its brave, battered heart are well-served by this book . . . Powerfully evocative . . . Has the quick pace and plot twists of a literary thriller . . . Juudit [is] a wonderfully drawn and complex character.”

    Cleveland Plain Dealer, US

  • “Oksanen is also a playwright and this shows in her tight control of the shifting timelines and viewpoints. No word is out of place /…/ What at first seems a chaotic mix of dates, names and events settles into a multi-layered novel where everyone and everything is weighted with significance. It is a rich and sometimes heavy feast – tense, dense and intense. Sofi Oksanen is a serious novelist in all ways.”

    The Independent, UK

  • “A brave and important voice /.../ Betrayal, secrecy, and memory are the haunting themes of Sofi Oksanen's accomplished new novel /.../ Most readers will start the book with only a hazy grasp of the intricacies of Baltic history. But they will be gripped by the dilemmas it created for Estonians, and the ways they are resolved in the book /.../ Oksanen's insights and intuition mean she is fast becoming one of the foremost voices in the ex-communist world.”

    The Economist, UK

  • “Oksanen isn't merely a Finnish writer who has broken through. The author of Purge, which sold over a million copies, is an international publishing sensation, frequently likened to Stieg Larsson /.../ Her family reflects Estonia's 20th-century divisions [and] When the Doves Disappeared maps out these bitter intra-family conflicts /.../ These scenes are pregnant with a spooky low-level menace.”

    The Guardian, UK

  • “A superb novel /…/ Over it hangs a Graham Greene-like atmosphere of human wretchedness and compromised political faith.”


    Sunday Telegraph, UK

  • “A powerful angry work”

    Mail on Sunday, UK

  • “A baroquely intimate book about war /.../ When the Doves Disappeared is intricately plotted and derives its tension from skipping back and forth in time from the ’40s to the 1960s /.../ No one in these pages is predictable, because survival in this period, Oksanen so beautifully reveals, meant learning to love only from the part of the heart that knows how to betray.”

    Toronto Star, Canada

  • “A brilliant novel /.../ Great thriller about a part of the world not well-known to Western readers. Sofi Oksanen is a writer to watch.”

    Globe and Mail, Canada

  • “Gorgeousness jumps off the page /.../ beautifully rendered.”

    Winnipeg Free Press, Canada

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Photo: #{publication.artist.imageByline}Sofi Oksanen
  • Literary
Reading material

English sample

Finnish edition

Rights sold

Albania, Fan Noli

Brazil, Record

Canada, Anansi

Croatia, Fraktura

Czech Republic, Euromedia

Denmark, Rosinante

Estonia, Varrak

Finland, Like

France, Stock

Germany, Kiepenheuer & Witsch

Hungary, Scolar

Italy, Feltrinelli

Norway, Oktober

Poland, Czarne

Slovenia, Beletrina

Spain, Salamandra

Sweden, Albert Bonniers

Turkey, Pegasus

Ukraine, Folio

UK, Atlantic Books

US, Knopf

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