White Hunger

by Aki Ollikainen


Out of stock

What does it take to survive? This is the question posed by the extraordinary Finnish novella that has taken the Nordic literary scene by storm.

1867: a year of devastating famine in Finland. Marja, a farmer’s wife from the north, sets off on foot through the snow with her two young children. Their goal: St Petersburg, where people say there is bread. Others are also heading south, just as desperate to survive. Ruuni, a boy she meets, seems trustworthy. But can anyone really help?



Why Peirene chose to publish this book:
Like Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, this apocalyptic story deals with the human will to survive. And let me be honest: There will come a point in this book where you can take no more of the snow-covered desolation. But then the first rays of spring sun appear and our belief in the human spirit is revived. A stunning tale.

Written by Aki Ollikainen.
Translated from the Finnish by Emily Jeremiah and Fleur Jeremiah.

Chance Encounter series
144pp, paperback with flaps, £12
ISBN 978-1-908670-20-5
eISBN 978-1-908670-21-2

Press & Reviews

'In famine-stricken 1860s Finland, the brief epic of Aki Ollikainen's White Hunger not only brings past hardships to shivering life, but offers a perennial fable of the refugee's plight.' Boyd Tonkin, Independent

'A striking folk tale about austerity politics.' Christina Petrie, Times Literary Supplement 

'White Hunger is Aki Ollikainen’s debut work, but it is written with the control of someone who has mastered the form. It has won four of Finland’s literary prizes, and I imagine this is not only down to the spare, taut prose, but to the way in which it documents one of the most painful periods of Finnish history.' Nicholas Lezard, The Guardian

'This is a slender book, but its theme of the human being’s determination to survive drills down into our most basic of instincts: how can I stay alive?... impossible not to respond to its raw, unsparing drama.' Elizabeth Bucan, The Daily Mail

'Ollikainen’s prose is as determined as the characters’ own will to live; and, even where it seems life simply cannot endure, the narrative deals bluntly, leading the reader through a tale of epic substance compacted into a mere seven-score pages.' Ben Paynter, Los Angeles Review of Books

About The Book


Aki Ollikainen, born in 1973, has taken the Finnish literary scene by storm with his extraordinarily accomplished debut novel White Hunger, which has won the most prestigous literary prizes in Finland. A professional photographer and reporter for a local newspaper, the author lives in Kolari in northern Finland. His second novel will be published in spring 2015.



Emily Jeremiah and Fleur Jeremiah form a multilingual mother-and-daughter translation team. Emily has an MA in Creative Writing and a PhD in German Studies. Fleur, her mother, is Finnish and has translated both fiction and non-fiction for many years. Emily and Fleur have co-translated work by numerous Finnish poets and novelists. They have translated three Peirene books: Peirene no. 7, The Brothers by Asko Sahlberg; Peirene no. 11, Mr Darwin’s Gardener by Kristina Carlson; and Peirene no. 16, White Hunger by Aki Ollikainen.