Riikka Pelo: Our Earthly Life

Finlandia Prize winning novel about a poet’s and her daughter’s fates in the shadow of the Soviet state apparatus.

Author: Riikka Pelo
Finnish original: Jokapäiväinen elämämme
Publisher: Teos, 2012
Number of pages: 526 pp.
Reading material: Finnish original, German translation, English sample
Rights sold: 
Czech Republic, Kniha Zlin; Estonia, Tänapäev; Germany, C. H. Beck

Our Earthly Life tells the story of the Russian poet Marina Tsvetaeva (1892–1941), her daughter Alya and their attempt at establishing a contact with each other in the two decades before the outburst of the Second World War.

While Alya tolls in a forced-labour camp in Kom, Marina is thousands of kilometres away, evacuated in Jelabuga. The secret police is pressing both to surrender what still holds them together as human beings. During a single day, both will have to decide how to go on with their lives.

Our Earthly Life is a forceful and shockingly beautiful description of humanity, despair, love, betrayal and writing. It is an unforgettable story about a family internally cracked but determined to maintain its unity when Stalin’s terror is set to destroy it.

The novel won the Finlandia Prize in 2013, and it was a nominee for the Runeberg prize. It has sold over 50,000 copies in Finland.

“Riikka Pelo’s second novel, Our Earthly Life , offers a wide spectrum to the Russian sentiment from the 1920’s to the 1940’s. […]  Pelo has chosen the point of view courageously: the monologue of a young Soviet woman cuts into a poetic girlhood and Marina’s indirect narration. The sentences broaden to comprise pages, the expression bends into a prose poem.”
– Helsingin Sanomat newspaper

”All in all Our Earthly Life  tells about dozens of loves. […] Throughout the novel Riikka Pelo plants precise, beautiful, peaceful details about our earthly life amongst the bad and sad things. […]  This is a beautiful, grand novel about immensily difficult things.”
– Parnasso literature magazine

Also available:
All that Is Alive (2019)
Heaven-Bearer (2006)

About the author:
Riikka Pelo