Staged Reading

Puhdistus – Purgatory

By Sofi Oksanen (Helsinki, Finland)
German translation from the Finnish by Angela Plöger

Sofi Oksanen

Sofi Oksanen

© Toni Härkönen

Past Dates

Aliide is a classic anti-heroine, a woman in whose biography love and history collide in the worst ways possible. In the end she will have betrayed everything and gained nothing – except for a long overdue moment of honesty with herself.

In the early 90s Aliide is an old woman living on her Estonian farm. Then the arrival of the young Russian Zara forces her to confront her past and the young Aliide of the 50s. For the sake of her sister Ingel’s husband Hans, a fighter for Estonian independence with whom she was in love, Aliide married a hated party official. Hans hid in the cellar of her house. After an interrogation, Aliide betrayed her sister, who is then deported to Siberia with her ten year-old daughter Linda. Half a century later Aliide recognizes Zara as Linda’s daughter.

In Aliide and Zara, Sofi Oksanen brings two generations of women together representing contrasting chapters of Estonian history but both faced with the same challenge: to gain enough space for themselves to survive within male-dominated political structures. The meeting of the two women makes clear that a country’s history does not become out-dated, it lives on inside every individual and becomes a part of their identity. The work’s penetrating realism allows it to transcend its immediate Eastern European context and become a parable which raises questions about the limits of individual behaviour and political responsibility within repressive regimes.
Roger Vontobel

Sofi Oksanen was born in Jyväskylä (Finland) in 1977. She studied at Helsinki Theatre Academy. Her first novel “Stalinin lehmät” (Stalin’s Cows) was published in 2003 and was nominated for the celebrated Finnish Runeberg Prize for Literature. Her second novel “Baby Jane” appeared in 2005. Her first play “Puhdistus” was premiered at the National Theatre Helsinki in 2007 and forms the basis of the novel of the same name, which has become a bestseller in Finland and has already been translated into a number of languages (in English “Purge”). For this novel she has already won the Mika Waltari Prize, the Great Finnish Book Club Prize, the Kalevi Jäntti Prize and the Finlandia Award 2008. Sofi Oksanen lives in Helsinki.


Scenic Arrangement by Burkhard C. Kosminski
Dramaturgy Katharina Blumenkamp
Music Knut Jensen

Read by
Andreas Grothgar, Wolfram Koch, Almut Zilcher und Patrycia Ziolkowska

With the kind support of the Finnish Theatre Information Centre, the Finnish Embassy in Berlin and the Finland Institute in Germany