Sami Hilvo
Publication date
Tammi publishers
Format info
354 pages

The Book of Moloch

Pyhä peto

Do you want to be liberated? Then don’t tell them who you are, and especially who you love.

A poignant story about a world where love was a more serious crime than hate, all hope deceit. And where the all-consuming idol that lives within all of us waited, insatiable, for its next sacrifice.

“Warsaw, 1939. Every Thursday I would escort my blind father to Doctor Warszawski’s office. A steaming bowl of soup waited in the kitchen. My impoverished Catholic father had forbidden me accepting any alms, and I succeeded in resisting the temptations of the cook, Bertilde, until she divined my Achilles heel: my infatuation with Doctor Warszawski’s Jewish son, Mojsze.

Warsaw, 2011. I return to the city at the age of 88. I’m known by the name Mojsze Warszawski. I took it in haste when the concentration camps were liberated. If I’d told the truth about myself I’d have been imprisoned again. I’m a successful architect, but the flash of my skyscrapers never reached the real Mojsze, never led him to me. Nor is there anything left of the city of my youth but a name, a river splitting the city’s heart, and the ghosts of its past inhabitants, who continue on with their lives as if the war and the destruction had never been.”

Through his protagonist, Sami Hilvo delves into exploring the dark side of humanity. The Moloch of the novel is a compilation and combination of these things – ways of thinking, world views, ideologies, delusions and self-deceptions – that deep within we know to be harmful, even deadly, but we nevertheless knowingly worship as the only, or at least the best, alternative. No matter how fervently we worship this idol, it is never satisfied, it always demands more, and those of us who have made offerings to it continue to do so until we have given all we have and more. Because we see the destruction caused by this beast, because we have already made the mistake of worshipping it, we have to sanctify it to remain sane. And when the beast is sanctified, the simple act of evaluating it, not to mention criticizing it, becomes blasphemy — and thus forbidden, taboo. In The Book of Moloch, the story begins from Europe’s blackest era of evil, but Hilvo shows through his protagonist how the Moloch within lives on in all of us as individuals, in each and every one of us.


Reading materials

English excerpt
Finnish edition


Praise for the work

“The novel wriggles among the most fundamental cruelty and superficial lustre in the world.” – Vesa Karonen, Helsingin Sanomat newspaper

“Can you betray your loved ones in order to save yourself? The Book of Moloch tells a chilling story.” – Me Naiset magazine

“In today’s discussion on immigration, this novel is a necessary read. [–] A splendid description of a world from which hope has faded.” – Gloria magazine

“Sami Hilvo’s The Book of Moloch (2016, Tammi) is such an explosively great novel that I am still astonished by it. [–] Sami Hilvo’s book is the best Finnish work of the year thus far. The Book of Moloch is complex and multifaceted, and somehow brings to mind Pajtim Statovci’s debut novel My Cat Yugoslavia from a few years back. [–] In addition to the majestic story, the beautiful language of the book is also enthralling. It is simultaneously raunchy and sensitive; contemplative and direct. There were many parts I had to reread, just to admire Hilvo’s brilliant style.” ­– Lukuneuvoja literary blog

“Mr. Hilvo once again brings us a splendid, wise and fantastically written book. He has even found his own way to approach the persecution of the Jews, a subject that has been nearly picked clean by authors before him. [—] Hilvo already had a high rating in my books, but with this work he rises even higher.” – Kulttuuri kukoistaa literary blog

“Sami Hilvo’s The Book of Moloch (Tammi 2016) blew my mind. When was the last time I read something like this? Was it in my teenage years, when I was hit hard by Herman Hesse’s Steppenwolf? Or was it during the hot summer many years later, when I read Brodell’s Report by Philippe Claudel? [–].  Divine world literature, in which nothing is what you think it will be.” – Leena Lumi literary blog