Land of Snow and Ashes

SELECTED FOR BOOKS AT BERLINALE 2021!

In this powerful debut novel, the beauty of the Arctic nature in Lapland contrasts with the brutal actions conducted both at a secret Nazi prison camp during the Second World War and against the indigenous Sámi people after the war. These secrets are buried deep, while inconceivable destinies drive the narration, resulting in an intoxicating read.

In the middle of the Arctic wilderness in North-Eastern Lapland, in 1944:

A young Finnish soldier, Väinö, works as a translator at a German-led prison camp where extreme cruelty is part of daily life, not only prisoners but also guards have to fight to preserve their humanity. The crimes committed are buried deep in human mind, but later omitted with complete silence in the official history.

The town of Enontekiö in Western Lapland, from 1947 to 1950:

Journalist and photographer Inkeri settles in the town, to write a series of reports on Lapland’s reconstruction. She also has an agenda of her own: to find out what happened to her husband who disappeared during the war.

The more Inkeri gets to know her young tenant Olavi – who is also originally from the south but has lingered in Lapland after the war ended – the more convinced she becomes that he is hiding something concerning her husband’s destiny.

Inkeri is also acquainted with a young Sámi girl who lives at the local boarding school where the objective is to assimilate the Sámi children to the dominant culture.

Underneath the skies of polar night and midnight sun, dark secrets begin to unfold.

 

 

Historical note:

Finland was an ally to Hitler’s Germany against the Soviet Union during the second World War, from 1941 to 1944. In 1944, Finland negotiated a secret separate peace treaty with the Soviets. A part of that treaty was the demand that the Finnish army needed to chase the German troops out of Finnish territory. The Finns waged war to force the Germans to retreat to Norway via the Northern route in 1944 and 1945; this period is known as the Lapland War. As a result, Lapland was burnt to ashes when the Germans used the so called scorched-earth policy.

For decades, it was claimed that there were no Nazi camps in Finland during the Second World War, nor were the Finns taking part in the deportation of the Jews. Recent historic research has however showed that these two claims have been untrue: In fact, traces of more than 200 Nazi camps have been found in Northern Finland, and it has been proven that racial projects were conducted at these camps, or at least made possible by actions taken at the camps.

Furthermore, racial projects on the Sámi people – the indigenous people in Lapland, living in Northern Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia and speaking several Sámi languages – were continued in Finland after the war, all the way to 1960’s and even 1970’s. Today, the Sámi are the only officially recognised indigenous people in the European Union

This web of competing nationalistic and ethnic motivations is depicted for the first time in Finnish literature in Land of Snow and Ashes.

 

 

 

 

 

SELECTED FOR BOOKS AT BERLINALE 2021!

In this powerful debut novel, the beauty of the Arctic nature in Lapland contrasts with the brutal actions conducted both at a secret Nazi prison camp during the Second World War and against the indigenous Sámi people after the war. These secrets are buried deep, while inconceivable destinies drive the narration, resulting in an intoxicating read.

In the middle of the Arctic wilderness in North-Eastern Lapland, in 1944:

A young Finnish soldier, Väinö, works as a translator at a German-led prison camp where extreme cruelty is part of daily life, not only prisoners but also guards have to fight to preserve their humanity. The crimes committed are buried deep in human mind, but later omitted with complete silence in the official history.

The town of Enontekiö in Western Lapland, from 1947 to 1950:

Journalist and photographer Inkeri settles in the town, to write a series of reports on Lapland’s reconstruction. She also has an agenda of her own: to find out what happened to her husband who disappeared during the war.

The more Inkeri gets to know her young tenant Olavi – who is also originally from the south but has lingered in Lapland after the war ended – the more convinced she becomes that he is hiding something concerning her husband’s destiny.

Inkeri is also acquainted with a young Sámi girl who lives at the local boarding school where the objective is to assimilate the Sámi children to the dominant culture.

Underneath the skies of polar night and midnight sun, dark secrets begin to unfold.

 

 

Historical note:

Finland was an ally to Hitler’s Germany against the Soviet Union during the second World War, from 1941 to 1944. In 1944, Finland negotiated a secret separate peace treaty with the Soviets. A part of that treaty was the demand that the Finnish army needed to chase the German troops out of Finnish territory. The Finns waged war to force the Germans to retreat to Norway via the Northern route in 1944 and 1945; this period is known as the Lapland War. As a result, Lapland was burnt to ashes when the Germans used the so called scorched-earth policy.

For decades, it was claimed that there were no Nazi camps in Finland during the Second World War, nor were the Finns taking part in the deportation of the Jews. Recent historic research has however showed that these two claims have been untrue: In fact, traces of more than 200 Nazi camps have been found in Northern Finland, and it has been proven that racial projects were conducted at these camps, or at least made possible by actions taken at the camps.

Furthermore, racial projects on the Sámi people – the indigenous people in Lapland, living in Northern Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia and speaking several Sámi languages – were continued in Finland after the war, all the way to 1960’s and even 1970’s. Today, the Sámi are the only officially recognised indigenous people in the European Union

This web of competing nationalistic and ethnic motivations is depicted for the first time in Finnish literature in Land of Snow and Ashes.

 

 

 

 

 

info

  • Year of publication

    2020

  • Original title

    Tuhkaan piirretty maa

  • Page count

    298

  • Original publisher

    Otava Publishing Company

  • Original language of publication

    Finnish

  • Sample translation

    Kristian London

Reviews

  • Pirita Näkkäläjärvi, Member of Sámi Parliament in Finland, Chair of Cultural Committee

    "Petra Rautiainen's novel is not only a fascinating story but also an example on how a work of fiction can be an important source of information on the history of indigenous peoples and other minorities. Getting to know the central characters Piera and Bigga-Marja opens a window into our Sámi culture and hopefully sparks an interest in the reader to find out more about the painful history of the indigenous people of Sámi in Finland."

  • Antti Kasper, Publisher, Otava Publishing Company

    "When we at Otava first read the manuscript for Petra Rautiainen’s debut novel, it was clear we had a real gem in our hands. The novel is the work of an exceptional literary talent, written in a powerful prose that reflects the rugged beauty of the novel’s arctic setting. At the same time, the novel reads like a thriller, exploring the dark secrets of WWII prison camps in Finnish Lapland. It is this rare combination of high literary quality and strong commercial appeal that makes Petra Rautiainen’s novel quite simply a dream come true for a publisher."

  • Francesca Varotto, Marsilio Editori (Gruppo Feltrinelli)

    "Touching and intense, Land of Snow and Ashes is one of those books you feel so lucky to have in your hands. The writing is beautiful, the structure is perfect, the setting so interesting and well researched, and the way how the story develops through a dual storyline captivating. It creates a growing suspense that leads to a great coup de théâtre. Moreover, the landscape and nature descriptions are so vivid and strong, that you feel like everything you’re reading about is happening right now in your room. The topic of human beings trying to reinvent themselves and hide the evil done is universal and belongs to each war and each time of inhumanity. This is fiction that arouses curiosity and stirs emotions."

  • Adam Freudenheim, Publisher of Pushkin Press

    "I’m thrilled to have acquired Land of Snow and Ashes, a novel that opens a whole new window on an otherwise familiar chapter of history. Just as importantly, it does so by telling a gripping story and with fully developed characters. I can’t wait for readers to ‘land’ in Lapland when Land of Snow and Ashes arrives as a lead title for Pushkin in early 2022."

  • Franziska Berninger, Suhrkamp

    "The way Petra Rautiainen intertwines Väinö's diary with Inkeri's experience in post-war-Lapland is uniquely crafted. Through her descriptions of war, the madness, all the emotional, tragic and terrifying events are highlighted and feel even closer. Her characters come to life with just a few sentences and she has the talent to reach deep into their hopes and fears, creating an instant immersion into the story.

    In some chapters, she succeeds in writing a page turning thriller, passages that leave the reader breathless stand next to poetic descriptions of the northern landscape. And above all, she writes about a burning topic of today's society: Dealing with the history of suppression, making amends to marginalized minorities and facing the whole truth of the past."

  • Savon Sanomat newspaper, Finland

    "The combination of drama between the characters, social analysis and the recount of recent history of violence results in a recipe for success. A reader turns the pages at a record pace… The novel is so addictive it challenges its worst competitors - the Internet streaming services.

    In this prose by a historian, punctuality and abundance of knowledge build a solid and analytical account of the world. And the actions do not merely stay in their historical context, but form a universally valid representation of the problems that are continuously relevant in power relations and for minorities."

  • Helsingin Sanomat newspaper, Finland

    "A perfectly robust, intense thriller plot.

    Land of Snow And Ashes describes the complex landscape of the 40’s Lapland ambitiously and beautifully… This debut novel explores the themes of Sámi culture and colonialism alongside German and Finnish brothers-in-arms.

    The characters in the novel clearly show how very young people go to war. For them, post-war freedom in peacetime is “mere chaos”…. The novel also depicts in a relatable way the difficulty of a swaying identity in the form of a young Sámi girl."

  • Jorman lukunurkka blog 17.8.2020

    “The addressed matters merge into an exquisite, thrilling, shocking and touching story….this suspense-packed page-turner leads to an unexpected ending. This is a superb book.”

  • Emmi Nuorgam/ Lukuretriitti (@lukuretriitti)

    "The book is uncomfortable. I thank the author for being bold and writing about how things have actually been. The book doesn’t explain, it shows.

    Land of Snow and Ashes is beautiful, touching, and above all a really important book. I hope that as many as possible can get their hands on this book."

  • Anne Louise Morseth-Nordbryhn, Gyldendal Norsk

    "A novel that has it all: suspense, love, jealousy, sex and war! It reads like a thriller and at the same time, it is thought-provoking.

    The characters and nature are beautifully depicted. The language is sparse, and in its simplicity, it leaves an even greater impression on the reader. The metaphors and the descriptions are impressively clever, and this seemingly lightness of the language makes the novel easy to read considering the severity of the story itself.
    LAND OF SNOW AND ASHES covers an important part of Finnish and Sámi history. The novel offers a voice for the Sámi people as a minority, for their culture, language, and rights. The story set in Lapland shows us how the Sámi people are viewed in the eyes of others, and how this view changes over the course of time.

  • Nanna Rørdam Knudsen, Modtryk

    “A unique setting and strong characters combined with a purposely hidden part of history - who could want for more in a novel? Petra Rautiainen has a compelling voice and writing style, and we’re excited to be able to share this promising authorship with the readers.”

  • Book of the Year by Suomalainen Kirjakauppa

    "A debut novel that touched me with its beautiful narration."

    "A magnificent debut! A close-knit story that will sweep you away. The northern prison camps and the coping mechanisms of individuals during the war and post-war are moving."

  • Benédicte Lombardo, Publishing Director, Editions du Seuil

    “The book is compelling, harsh by moments but heartful and very well written. I was enthralled by Inkeri’s quest, and both timelines are well constructed and fascinating. The author manages to draw complex characters, describe an amazing land and deal with such a difficult topic.
    I haven’t read such a brilliant and original historical novel for a while.”

  • Outi Hytönen, Parnasso Magazine, Finland

    "In Land of Snow and Ashes, criticism is heard via Inkeri's acquaintances Piera and Bigga- Marja. Their dialogue is sometimes in Sámi, untranslated. The Sámi have seldom (if ever?) been portrayed in Finnish fiction in such an interactive way.
    Small comments explaining Sámi culture or a reference to "at these latitudes" fit well into the mouths of the narrator and protagonist from the south. Cultural ownership has been a point of discussion in recent years, and one could think the most sensitive advocates might mistake the combination of the Finnish writer and Sámi depiction as colonial. But if an author can’t write like this about other people, then there is no way at all."

  • Henna Aikio, Sámi online newspaper Loostâš

    "As a Finn Rautiainen succeeds in describing the history of Finland’s colonialization and also gives a voice to the Sámi instead of depicting them as silent or passive victims. Her novel points out, especially by Inkeri and Bigga-Marja, what society has done to the Sámi. However, the novel does not blame, but gives something to reflect on."

  • Jakub Sedláček, Paseka

    "The author’s language is fresh, sparkling, but as chilling as early morning in the far north. Petra Rautiainen’s debut novel depicts the brutality of the war that scarred Lapland in the mid-1940s. But her voice is entirely comprehensible even to readers beyond the frontiers of Finland. Through our catalogue, we aspire to bring to the Czech reading public the most awe-inspiring works of contemporary prose. This is a book that simply cannot be overlooked.”

  • Lepe Parviainen, Kulttuuritoimitus

    "Is just the right mix of a significant national historical topic and a very symbolic nature portrayal.”

Awards & Nominations

Awards

  • Savonia Prize

    2020

Nominations

  • Helsingin Sanomat Literature Prize

    2020

  • Book of the Year, Suomalainen Kirjakauppa

    2020

  • Lapland Literature Prize

    2021

Quote

"If this land of stunted birches had ever been able to sustain vegetation, there was no sign of it. The earth had been slashed, spoiled, and scorched. The trees had been felled during the war, and if they hadn’t, they’d been burned down or blown up. Her eye had struck upon the odd tree fragment during the drive. Their thorny remains jutted every which way, ghostly, coal-black splinters like bayonet-tips or swords. Amid them rose stone hearths marking the ruins of homes. They too sprouted from the earth in peculiar formations, like distortions."

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