Anja Snellman

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Sonia O. Was Here

First published in 1981, Sonia O. Was Here continues to be discovered by new generations of readers. The book remains the highest-selling debut novel in the history of Finnish literature, and it was recently included in a list of 101 all-time Finnish classics. The works were selected by the Finnish Broadcasting Company in 2017, the centenary of Finnish independence.

Sonia O. seeks independence from the stifling conventions and lifelong lies that are being imposed on new generations in the guise of roots or traditions. Cited at its time of publication as the “boldest book ever written by a Finnish woman,” this powerful, candid, insightfully ironic novel discusses themes that are as relevant as ever: our equal right to seek, experiment, make mistakes, love, and create.

The book still raises the question: beneath the surface, how much of all the progress we seem to have made is real?

A man’s odyssey must be among the most explored themes in literature, and we all know the story: the male ego always seems to remain intact, no matter how earthshaking the hardships. A myriad of literary works celebrate manly bravery and curiosity—if not glorified immaturity. Sonia O. Was Here presents a woman’s reply.

In the spirit of Bukowski, Miller, and Fellini, Snellman depicts a young woman’s search for independence and freedom, her struggle to define her boundaries, and her encounters with the double standards of our society.

In Sonia’s vocabulary, escape is synonymous with freedom: when things become troublesome, she steals away through the back door that opens with a betraying creak. Her life is a recurrent cycle of defiance, departure, and the feelings of guilt that follow—until she no longer finds an escape. She must confront the fragments of her past and the dialectics of her personality, and she needs to crack the code of her own life.

New Terrain Press 2021. All rights reserved.

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