Recommended Reading: Children of The Cave

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Children of The Cave

By Virve Sammalkorpi, Emily and Fleur Jeremiah (translator)

‘It’s dangerous to be different where everyone else is alike. Have you noticed?’

1819, Iax Agolasky, a young assistant to a notable French explorer, sets off on a journey to the Russian wildnerness. The travellers discover a group of creatures living in a cave: children with animal traits. But are they animals, or are they human? Faced with questions of faith, science and the fundamentals of truth, tensions rise in the camp. Soon the children’s safety becomes threatened and Agolasky needs to act. 

About The Author: Virve Sammalkorpi

We celebrate Virve Sammalkorpi as one of the most powerful voices to emerge in Finnish literature for a generation. She published her first novel in 1999 and has written seven novels in total. Sammalkorpi’s most recent novel, Children of The Cave, won both the 2017 Savonia Literature Prize and the Kuvastaja prize for the best Finnish Fantasy Novel. This is the first time one of her books has been translated into English.

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Iax Agolasky was born in Russia in 1795, the only child of Marushka and Vladimir Agolasky. Vladimir, his father, was a scholar and a polyglot. In addition to his native Russian, Iax learned French from his father. Iax gradually became interested in France, that distant land, seeing its language as his second mother tongue. He emigrated there as a young man.

In Paris, the young Iax managed to secure a position as an assistant at the Académie des Sciences. At the age of twenty-two, he was asked to act as assistant and interpreter to one Professor Moltique on an expedition to north-west Russia.

Professor Jean Moltique was a proponent of an early branch of anthropology that researched ancient peoples by means of folklore and legends. He was rumoured to have discovered the footprints of a yeti, possibly even an actual yeti, though none could prove this achievement. The journey undertaken by Professor Moltique and Agolasky lasted from 1819 to 1823, at least. Partly because of defective documentation, partly because of missing notes, no one knows exactly where Agolasky and Moltique travelled.

A letter written by Moltique to the Académie des Sciences reveals that he and Agolasky discovered a small tribe of forest dwellers in the wilderness. Moltique dubbed the members of this tribe les enfants des ombres, the children of shadows. He had at first taken these forest dwellers to be descendants of the ancient Anatolian people of Paphlagonia, but he changed his mind in the course of the expedition. In the words of the professor, his new theory was ‘audacious and unprecedented’. The letter in which these words appear was filed in the academy’s archives without any associated reports or memoranda. No one knows, therefore, what sentiments or proposals for action it may have prompted among academicians.

Much of the expedition remains shrouded in mystery. The first and only news reports concerning it date back to 1823, when Professor Moltique and Iax Agolasky returned from their Expedition of All Times, as the press referred to the trip. The fuss soon subsided. 

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Article originally Published in the October/November 2019 Issue “Read Global”

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