The Second Coming of Christ

While on his rural tour in autumn 1914, the tenor singer Aarne Oden coughs up a life-threatening amount of blood, and he is diagnosed with tuberculosis. He is sent off to the tuberculosis sanatorium, the kingdom of those hanging on to life by just a thread.

At the same time, in a remote village in the north, the preacher and landowner Kustaa Anttola is preparing for the Michaelmas prayer proceedings. However, the preparations get interrupted when he finds the local madman Stye-Viljaami drinking in his barn. In his anger, Kustaa gives Viljami a heavy beating. During the prayers, Kustaa’s life is forever altered as Christ appears behind the window to listen to his sermon.

Aarne, who has recovered at the sanatorium, also finds himself in the north, supervising the transportation of munitions of the Russian Empire, from the coasts of the Arctic Ocean to the northernmost railroad station of the Empire. When spring comes, Aarne meets Christ on the shore of a wild lake and finds that the two have more in common than he thought. And soon, Kustaa Anttola finds two Christs on his land.

How do people see themselves when they’re forced to give up what they have constructed their identity on, and illness becomes the characteristic trait defining them? And how does one see their loved ones, marked by death and illness? What happens to a righteous preacher when the long-expected Christ arrives before him in the form of the creature most wretched?

Aki Ollikainen’s latest novel grows larger in size thanks to its lyrical language. The individual scenes are like expressionist paintings reaching over the visible world.

White Hunger

A mother and her two young children trudge through a swirling snowstorm, with nothing but endless misery around them and golden, grand St. Petersburg as their destination. The endless winter and ruthless hunger have turned people into animals, and on their journey the family comes face-to-face with a reality that is nearly impossible to imagine today.

Meanwhile, the better-off Renqvist brothers have their own existential questions to deal with. Teo, a doctor, ponders in anguish what kind of god could let such a calamity fall upon mankind; Lars, an assistant to a senator, decides to bury his doubts by blindly trusting the decisions of his superior. When the hungry family and the Renqvists cross paths, humanity, in the end, triumphs amongst all suffering.

A Tale of Darkness

In his second novel, Aki Ollikainen takes his readers to Tattarisuo, which has a dark and special reputation in Finnish criminal history. The narrator’s family has fallen apart, and his wife and son have left him. Reality has become unhinged, and the unresolved tragedies inherited from prior generations have started to overwhelm his thoughts. Many paths seem to lead him to Tattarisuo, a place where a man known as Witch-Kallio used to perform mystic practices.

On a second temporal level, the reader follows Heino, a bootlegger in 1930s Helsinki. Heino has a family, a wife and a son, and his life in order, but an all-too-human greed takes hold both in love and money, and Heino’s selfishness and carelessness bring about a chain reaction of events stretching across generations, with the nocturnal Tattarisuo as its starting or ending point.

A TALE OF DARKNESS is a somber, beautiful novel about dissolution on the levels of the individual, family, chain of generations and society as well. The past molds us in one way or another. Inside each and every one of us is a Tattarisuo, a dismal place to drown, but whence a trove of unfathomable riches might one day arise.

A Pastoral

An idyllic midsummer’s day in Eastern Finland. People falling in love and taking care of each other, and nature sublime in its beauty. But darkness lurks around the corner…

Aki Ollikainen’s picturesque third novel is aglow with the rural idyll of a summer’s day and the fantasies of people wandering in the midsummer’s night. During a single day in Eastern Finland, the realities of multiple generations meet, time flows through itself, and strange things occur. And normal things occur as well. Two young people fall in love, two slightly older ones are struggling with their relationship, and two even older people have found a sublime tranquility in each other.

However, the magical world of A PASTORAL is also cruel and unpredictable. Dark clouds loom over the blue skies, a monstrous wolf wanders in the shadows and mocking ravens swing on a branch. And when the morning finally dawns, the ravenous death has raged amid the idyll.

Aki Ollikainen

Aki Ollikainen has studied social policy at the University of Jyväskylä and is a trained photographer. He has previously worked as an editor and, among other things, at a metal workshop, a library, and a post office.

His debut novel White Hunger received the Helsingin Sanomat Literary Prize for Best Debut Novel of 2012 and was longlisted for the Man Booker International Prize in 2016. Ollikainen lives in Lohja with his wife and two children. Aki and his wife Milla form the pseudonym A.M. Ollikainen and have jointly published two crime novels.