Marja Kyllönen: The Undeparted

A nameless evil throws fates into disarray in a masterwork glowing with a black luminosity. Winner of the Runeberg Prize 2023!

Author: Marja Kyllönen
Finnish original: Vainajaiset
Publisher: Teos Publishers, 2022
Genre: adult fiction, literary
Number of pages: 400 pp.
Reading material: Finnish original, English synopsis

In the hardscrabble north of the 1950s, Rauno loses his heart to the girl from the neighboring farm, Laimi Inari. The young couple’s forbidden love is sweet, but the happiness they anticipate never manifests. They remain childless, and year by year the flame fades. 

And then a malevolent narrative voice begins to mingle with the couple’s story. Deceased, persecutor, and nightmare, an unborn spirit stuck between two worlds seeks a path back to life. Individual fates begin to warp in sinister ways.

The Undeparted is a novel glowing with a black luminosity. It is a story of childlessness and dreams that fade or morph into nightmares. Page by page, it swells with inevitable force into a horror story that firmly holds the reader in its agonizing grip. 

“A black humor injects light into the webs of gloom, but the whole of the billowing darkness is held together by an idiom that transports into the abyss and the irresistible pull of the work’s structure. […] The world of the book is abundant and creates a maelstrom of meanings through its cyclicality. The numerous repeated images, from jackdaws to fish, become mysterious symbols begging for closer study. The Undeparted is like a bleak mystery that opens up slowly, revealing unexpected beauty beneath oozing sludge. Absolutely one of the most interesting literary works of the season.”
– Helsingin Sanomat newspaper

“At the heart of Kyllönen’s novel is a masterful and potent idiom that knits itself into the work’s dreamlike world. The Undeparted is a plunge into cross-generational guilt, envy, and silence that erupt to the surface through the desperate individual acts. A novel of extraordinary expressive force, it seduces and dupes the reader until the end. While sowing fear, it still offers the possibility of hope.”
– Finlandia Prize Jury

“Marja Kyllönen’s The Undeparted is an eerily ferocious mystery novel that smolders and burns in a dazzling show of pyrotechnics.”
– Keskisuomalainen newspaper

“An unnerving gut-punch of a mystery novel.”
– Karjalainen newspaper

About the author:
Marja Kyllönen