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The girl is silent. She watches, observes, reminisces. It is the late 1980’s, the last trembling years of the Soviet Union, and a Finnish student of archeology at Moscow University who has left a broken relationship behind is traveling the Trans-Siberian Railroad to Mongolia to see the ancient rock paintings in Ulan Bator. When boarding the train in Moscow, a crude vodka-marinated Russian man steps into the small compartment. Throughout their weeks on the train, the man talks non-stop, alternating between emotional memories from his horrific childhood and lurid details about his sexual conquests and violent fights. He has been raised on the streets, toiled in labor camps and killed a man, and now he is on his way to work at a construction site in Mongolia. His endless litany holds both love and hate for the Soviet Union and the girl, a prisoner in the tiny train compartment, is repulsed but forced to listen.

Over thousands of miles and hours of monolog, a grudging kind of companionship grows between the two inhabitants of compartment No. 6. Amenities on board are scarce and when the train makes stops in frozen tundra towns, the girl and the man become an unlikely pair on missions to secure sustenance – and the large supply of vodka that his advanced alcoholism demands.

Painful, razor sharp, and free of all sentimentality, Rosa Liksom has written a deeply original novel that opens the door to a lost world. Together, the girl and the reader are given a swan song to the Soviet Union in all its brutal reality.

Compartment Nr. 6 won the prestigious Finlandia Literary Award in 2011 and was made into a critically acclaimed feature film in 2021.

Extra Materials

118398503_1260186394318848_6118453983528839663_n Albania, Dituria
korica-kupe-6 Bulgaria, Perseus
Kupe-br.-6-CRO Croatia, Hena Com
Kupe-nr-6-DEN Denmark, Tiderne Skifter
cover compartment no 6 Estonia, Koolibri
Hytti-nro-6 Finland, WSOY
Compartiment-n-6-FRA France, Gallimard
Abteil-nr-6-GER Germany, Penguin Verlag
A-6-os-szm-flke-HUN Hungary, Szephalom
Klefi-Nr-6-ISL Iceland, Uppheimar
Nytt omslag 20211108111939_226_cover-alta.jpg.600x1800_q85_upscale Italy, Iperborea
Sesta-kupeja-LAT Latvia, Zvaigzne
Kupe-Nr6-LIE Lithuania, Kitos Knygos
Coupe-no-6-HOL The Netherlands, Podium
Kupe-nr-6-RUS Russia, Text
274520861_371228285005981_4106878007081136299_n Spain, Alianza
9789146239321 Sweden, Wahlström & Widstrand
getimage-354 UK, Serpents Tail
Compartment-no6-USA US, Graywolf Press


“Ms. Liksom conjures beauty from the ugliest of things. As she finds something wily and comical in the unforgettably horrible Ivanov, so she imbues the industrial wastelands with an inexplicable charm. […] What emerges is a twilight-hued elegy to the sickly last days of a wicked empire.”
Wall Street Journal (US)

“One of the book’s strengths is the many highly detailed, poetic descriptions of the mountains, snow-covered plains, and isolated, poverty-stricken towns. . . . An unsettling, politically charged parable about the proletariat’s Soviet Union on the eve of dissolution.”
Kirkus Reviews (US)

“[An] impressionistic travelogue of a novel.”
Publishers Weekly (US)

“[Compartment No. 6] seeks to bury Mother Russia and to praise her. It’s a delicate trick, but one that Finnish author Rosa Liksom pulls off with subtlety and skill. […] Liksom’s great achievement is that the portrait she paints is difficult for the reader to leave behind.”
Washington Independent Review of Books (US)

“Liksom is a master of controlled exaggeration. With a couple of carefully chosen brushstrokes, a mini-story, she is able to conjure up an entire human destiny.”
The Winnipeg Reviews (US)

“[Liksom’s] rapturous descriptions, filled with minutely observed details, mix together the beautiful and the banal, the ugly and the sublime. They are shot through with a sense of loss, and yet always seem to contain a hopeful motion.”
The Rumpus (US)

Compartment No. 6 unfolds like a poem. . . . A lingering sense of the landscape and enduring survival remains.”
Star Tribune, Minneapolis (US)

“Brilliant and politically charged. […] Compartment No. 6 flows at a balladic clip, a political commentary to be endured, savored, and never forgotten.”
Malibu Magazine (US)

“[Compartment No. 6 is] a book to be read slowly, savoring the writing. The author gives us striking characters and vivid descriptions of early spring in what was the Soviet Union.”
Pioneer Press (US)

“A wonderful novel.”
Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH)

“Rosa Liksom moves deftly between a myriad of subplots as they unfold in tandem to the novel’s central theme, in this way creating a powerful impression of the many torments that have shaped the destiny of the Russian people. Within the flowing descriptions each story lies enclosed within the next much as with Russian dolls, and the least is the most touching of all.”
La Liberté Suisse (FR)

“The literary composition alone is worth the money, the melodic, rhythmic language, compressed, poetical and replete with fragrance and color sensations. […] The girl and the man, this unlikely couple, accompany one another at the close across the plains as if progressing through a film by Andrej Tarkovskij.”
Svenska Dagbladet (SE)

“We’re very fond of Rosa Liksom’s multitalented authorship. The skillful jumps between jovial burlesque and a state of sedate melancholy. […] The people that don’t really fit in anywhere, which she depicts with such warmth, and humor.”
Vi Läser (SE)

“The novel is a pitch black accordion were every fold holds a tragicomic history. It drips with people’s destinies and crestfallen conversations. From this appear the counters of a country, a people and a time – so powerful that you believe you can hear and see it with your own eyes.”
Kulturnytt (SE)

“The outcome is both atmospheric and beautiful, an elegy to the Soviet Union and its people, the land where ‘unhappiness is perceived as happiness.”
Helsingborgs Dagblad (SE)

“All this black as night misery and despair are elevated by the writer into literature. She achieves this by means of the girl’s acute observations and sensitivity and the man’s luxuriating exaggeration and burlesque vehemence. […] The entire text is saturated with marked sensuality: the taste of buckwheat porridge, beetroots and rancid fat. And the human smells of sweat, fusel alcohol and poverty. […] And thus Compartment No 6 becomes a remarkable little book.”
Göteborgs-Posten (SE)

“The wild stories of the rough fellow passenger make this journey increasingly absurd, giddying and captivating. […] It is a stroke of genius to describe a country and give form to one’s mixed feelings for it through such a figure. To me, he is the incarnation of the human factor, which means that reason can never prevail, neither in planned nor in Capitalist economies.”
Aftonbladet (SE)

“The most fascinating thing about this short novel is Rosa Liksom’s masterly ability to visualize life and landscape. She is an artist, after all, and the imagery in the book is often very surprising and always loaded with meaning.”
Hufvudstadsbladet (FI)

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