Aki Ollikainen: Tale of Darkness

There is a Tattarisuo inside everyone – a dark place into which a chest with immeasurable treasures may sink, to be found one day.

Author: Aki Ollikainen
Finnish original: Musta satu
Publisher: Siltala, 2015
Genre: literary fiction
Number of pages: 157 pp.
Reading material: Finnish original,
English sample
Rights sold: Estonia, Loomingu raamatukogu; Neatherlands, Ambo Anthos

Tale of Darkness transports the reader to Helsinki’s Tattarisuo – the location of an old rubbish dump – which has its own special yet bleak reputation in Finnish crime history.

The family of the present-day narrator of Tale of Darkness has broken up, with his wife and son leaving. The truth has warped out of recognition, and unsolved tragedies from past generations begin to take over. Many paths seem to lead to the old rubbish dump, where a man believed to be a sorcerer once practised his mystical rites.

In the novel’s other time layer, the reader follows a bootlegger smuggling spirits in 1930s Helsinki. The bootlegger has a family, a wife and a son, and things are almost as they should be. But then the most human of traits, greed, strikes, both over love and money. The chain reaction ignited by the bootlegger’s selfishness and carelessness carries from one generation to the next. The start or the end point is in the night-time setting of the rubbish dump of Tattarisuo.

Tale of Darkness is a novel about disintegration of an individual, of a family, of generations and of the society, and of the past which shapes us in one way or another. The seemingly small novel grows into a large story, spreading out in many different directions.

The book event of the spring […] Ollikainen, a master in grinding diamonds into their most compact form, brings a bygone era closer, the people of its exceptional circumstances become our own flesh and blood […] His newest work is significantly more complex and a braver attempt than its straightforward predecessor, but it is expressed just as emotionally: it is beautiful, touching and terrifying […] the most thought-provoking new Finnish literature on the market right now.
– Helsingin Sanomat newspaper

Strong expression, with translucent and chilling images, penetrates the mysterious depiction of Tattarisuo. Ollikainen does not explain these images, choosing instead to illustrate them through linguistic enchantment.”
– Turun Sanomat newspaper

Tale of Darkness is a skilfully constructed novel about searching for an identity and the inability to break a curse running through the generations […] Ollikainen’s use of words is economical, he trusts in the reader’s ability to fill in the gaps and create imagery within their own mind. With a just few words he cuts off a scene and turns the focus once again to a new direction […] Ollikainen’s vivid language and multilevel narrative are enjoyable to read, even if the subject is bleak.
– Oma Aika magazine

[…] der schmale Roman [ist] auch eine kluge Meditation über Männlichkeit, darüber, was es heißt, zum Mann heranzuwachsen, damals und heute. […] Ollikainens feine Beobachtungsgabe und literarische Klugheit machen auch diesen Roman zu einem abgründigen Kleinod.
– Tanja Küddelsmann, Lue.Finland website

Also available:
A Pastoral (2018)
White Hunger (2012)

About the author:
Aki Ollikainen