Stalinin lehmät

Stalinin lehmät Stalin’s Cows

The Estonian Quartet #1

In this astonishing debut by a writer equipped with a rare storytelling genius, the lives of three women of different generations and societies – grandmother, mother, and daughter – serve as the uniting force of a highly unusual and powerful, epic narrative. In depicting the lives of Sofia, Katariina and Anna, whose stories unfold within communist Estonia, capitalist Finland, or both, Oksanen lets the entire 20th century flash before our eyes – while retaining a loving but firm grip on her characters and the bond between them.

Stalin’s Cows is Oksanen’s inexorable showdown with hypocrisy – the power of shame and feeling second-class, the harsh division between East and West, and the impossible feat of being a woman. The novel is also the first installment in The Estonian Quartet, which depicts the division of Europe and the consequences that reach from the 1930s into present day.


Shortlisted for the Runeberg Award Finland 2004
Close award list


  • “Like Purge, this book is brilliantly written and crosses historical events with private life.”

    Emma, Germany

  • “This novel is created by a great narrative force.”

    TAZ, Germany

  • “It is no wonder that this is very accomplished – it is written by Sofi Oksanen, 35, one of the best authors in Finland and creator of the bestseller Purge.”

    Spiegel Online, Germany

  • “This novel is sociologically, historically and literary interesting. Sofi Oksanen proves once more why her novels are praised world-wide.”

    OÖ Nachrichten, Germany

  • “There has never before existed a more vivid and impressing, hard (and sometimes funny) prose about the deprivation of human rights.”

    Süddeutsche Zeitung, Germany

  • “Oksanen’s prose is naked, furious, despairing. /…/ In a pendulum movement, syncopating and self-willed, Oksanen describes a crisis filled youth that may come across as an accusation. /…/ Powerful and wound-covered.”

    Svenska Dagbladet, Sweden

  • “Extremely powerful and worth reading. /…/ Anna’s pessimistic search for an identity is portrayed with a stubborn primordial force.”

    Sydsvenskan, Sweden

  • “Debutant Sofi Oksanen has written an overwhelming novel about Estonian women of three generations.”

    Göteborgs-Posten, Sweden

  • “A furious brick. /…/ Oksanen is not just right and easy-going, but relentless and grimly detailed. /…/ The novel has a raging, tremendous ambition and a dramatic acuteness that I very much enjoy.”

    Aftonbladet, Sweden

  • Stalin’s Cows is Sofi Oksanen's debut novel, something that is very difficult to fathom. She has an amazing narrative voice. /…/ Sofi Oksanen is from time to time reminiscent of Marguerite Duras.

    Dagens Nyheter, Sweden

  • “In a brilliant way, Sofi Oksanen weaves together the story of Anna’s life with that of her mother and grandmother. /…/ This is a magnificent novel about resistance and subjection and about the great national disease of our time: eating disorders and self-starvation. It is written with gravity and earnestness, but also with warmth and irony. From the bottom of my heart, I hope that it will have many readers.”

    Östgöta Correspondenten, Sweden

  • “A caustic display of social criticism. /…/ Stalin’s Cows is an indictment that bends under restrained fury and stinging irony. You put the book away with an acric taste on your tongue.”

    Sundsvalls Tidning, Sweden

  • “An overwhelming experience.”

    Salon Seudun Sanomat, Finland

  • Stalin’s Cows is a bold, honest and profound analysis of the female physicality.”

    Hämeen Sanomat, Finland

  • “Sofi Oksanen writes with lucidity and distinction. The text flows smoothly forward, as though smeared with ice-cream. /…/ In addition to the pacy tone of voice,Stalin’s Cows also has an important message to society.”

    Satakunnan Kansa, Finland

  • Stalin’s Cows is an important novel, a shocking account of a theme that has not often been treated in literary form.”

    Etelä-Saima, Finland

  • “Sofi Oksanen’s Stalin’s Cows is an oeuvre that makes you stop and think.”

    Savon Sanomat, Finland

  • “Sofi Oksanen is a name that deserves to be made a mental note of. Stalin’s Cows is an interesting novel of character development, ingenuous and easy to read.”

    Ilkka, Finland

  • “Oksanen’s diction is multifarious and skillfully designed, she moves quickly between laughter and tears, between cordiality and coolness.”

    Turun Sanomat, Finland

  • “An insightful portrait of a mother and a daughter.”

    Lapin Kansa, Finland

  • “Sofi Oksanen’s debut novel is just as dramatic as its successor, [and] the drama is performed in the stomach of a young woman.”

    Politiken, Denmark

  • “To throw up is also a language, and it is the language in which Stalin’s Cows is written. A violent and painful discharge of generations of oppression, lies and secrets. Oksanen’s debut novel is fantastic.”

    Berlingske, Denmark

  • “Sofi Oksanen is a grim realist with the chilling opinion that history is fate. /…/ Stalin’s Cows is yet another dazzling verification of the young Finnish-Estonian writer’s greatness. And she has been great for a long time.”

    Jyllands-Posten, Denmark

  • “Sofi Oksanen confirms that she belongs in the premier league of European literature… Greatly recommended.”

    Fyens Stiftstidene, Denmark

  • “The novel has a profusion of detailed character portraits, few are flattering and roots in the gloomy national similarities and differences. In all of these miseries, the novel is colored by a grim sense of humor. /…/ For a debut novel by a then 26-year old writer, this is exceptionally beautifully executed.”

    Information, Denmark

  • “Already in her 2003 debut novel, Oksanen writes densely, perceptively and without mercy.”

    Weekendavisen, Denmark

  • “Sofi Oksanen writes soberly and completely without sentimentality. A great story about how historical events cross generations, like a trail of blood that never coagulates.”

    Ekstra Bladet, Denmark

  • “The most powerful debut novel in a long, long time… The story is strong, and Oksanen moves in close on the events. It is tangible touching on brutal, unsentimental but at the same time sensuous… a novel that pulls at both the heart strings and the stomach region of the reader, at the same time as it depicts European history in the century of extremism. With Sofi Oksanen not only Finland but the entire Nordic region has a new, great author.”

    NRK, Norway

  • “A remarkably good debut that sharply and effectively ties together experiences from very different areas of life. Sofi Oksanen is routinely showered in praise. You don’t need to read many pages of her debut Stalin’s Cows to understand why. The novel [is a] hefty punch that strikes me right to the ground … However, the special and truly interesting thing about Stalin’s Cows is that it connects personal experiences to the larger story of Estonia during and just after the Soviet era. … Sofi Oksanen is no doubt an author we will hear a lot more of.”

    Aftenposten, Norway

  • “In Stalin’s Cows we are pulled into a world where historical, cultural and personal experiences are forged together with confident stylistic sense and effect … Stalin’s Cows is a welcome and impressive novel.”

    Klassekampen, Norway

  • “Sofi Oksanen has given the novel a form that is as tight as the story is multifaceted. And the narrator of the book has a buoyancy that makes us sense that there is a way out. On her blog Sofi Oksanen writes that she is an author because she believes books can change the world, and there is a drive in this novel that makes us to believe she is right.”

    Vårt Land, Norway

  • “Great stories are put into action in Stalin’s Cows. Violent passions and insecurity are described in a sober and effective manner”

    Morgenbladet, Norway

  • “A great novel about life in the true socialism … And at the same time she masters to write a novel about anorexia … The novel is both a brutally honest and startlingly political novel … Oksanen is not the first to write about life behind the iron curtain, but she is one of the very best and at the same time a young and experimental voice.”

    Fædrelandsvennen, Norway

  • “One of the greatest young Finnish authors. And she is good … an utterly unique contemporary novel.”

    Dagbladet, Norway

  • “A remarkably mature debut that demonstrates exceedingly engaging penmanship … The portrayal of Estonian life in the shadow of Stalin … is believable and thought-provoking … alludes to Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath and Marguerite Duras”

    Stavanger Aftenblad, Norway

  • “This novel has a linguistic drive and intensity that is truly on par with Sara Stridsbergs ‘The Dream Faculty’. The pages are smoldering, the words are hammered out. This is great literature”

    Ny Tid, Norway

  • “A powerful, hard-hitting novel about silence, shame and fear, and about complicated relationships”

    Aftenposten, Norway

Photo: Toni Härkönen Sofi Oksanen
  • Literary
Reading material

Finnish edition

French edition

Spanish edition

Rights sold

Brazil, Record

Bulgaria, Perseus

Czech Republic, Euromedia

Denmark, Gyldendal

Estonia, Tänapäev

Estonia, Varrak

Finland, WSOY

France, Stock

Germany, Kiepenheuer & Witsch

Hungary, Scolar

Iceland, Forlagid

Italy, Guanda

Latvia, Jumava

Lithuania, Versus Aureus

Netherlands, Ambo Anthos

Norway, Oktober

Poland, Świat Ksiazki

Romania, Polirom

Slovenia, Beletrina

Spain, 451 editores

Sweden, Albert Bonniers

Turkey, Pegasus

Ukraine, Folio

More From Sofi Oksanen

The Estonian Quartet