White Hunger

Aki Ollikainen

Original title: Nälkävuosi

Author: Aki Ollikainen

Published: 2013

Publisher: Siltala

Genre: Literary Fiction

Pages: 139

Reading material:

English manuscript

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.

‘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. [---] The book ends with hope, with the idea of a future; that it is from such catastrophes that nations are born.

Nicholas Lezard, The Guardian

Download reading materials

Rights sold:
FINLAND: Siltala (orig.)
CHINA: Guangxi Normal University Press Group
ESTONIA: Skarabeus
FRANCE: Éditions Héloïse d'Ormesson
GERMANY: Transit Verlag
SPAIN: Libros del Asteroide
SWEDEN: Lind & Co
WORLD ENGLISH: Peirene Press


Foreign covers

About author

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.


2022, Literary Fiction

Aki Ollikainen

The Second Coming of Christ

2018, Literary Fiction

Aki Ollikainen

A Pastoral

2015, Literary Fiction

Aki Ollikainen

A Tale of Darkness

2013, Literary Fiction

Aki Ollikainen

White Hunger