They Know Not What They Do

Pages: 496
Subject: Fiction, Translated Fiction
Imprint: Oneworld

They Know Not What They Do

Jussi Valtonen

Translated by Kristian London
A young man's decision to put career before family leads to chilling consequences
9781786073532 (7 Jun 2018)
RRP £9.99 / US$16.99

The Book

Joe Chayefski has got what he always wanted: a reputation as one of America's top neuroscientists, a beautiful wife and two perfect daughters. But when his lab is attacked by animal rights activists, Joe is forced to face the past and reconnect with the son he abandoned twenty years earlier. As he struggles to

deal with the sudden collision of his two lives - and to save his eldest daughter from the clutches of an unscrupulous tech company - Joe has to reconsider his

priorities and take drastic action to save those he loves.

An ambitious page-turner of a novel, They Know Not What They Do is perfect for fans of Jonathan Franzen and Dave Eggers.

Additional Information

Subject Fiction, Translated Fiction
Pages 496
Imprint Oneworld


About the Author

Jussi Valtonen is an author and psychologist from Helsinki. He studied neuropsychology in the United States and screenwriting in the UK. His previous works include two novels and a short story collection. He currently lives in New York.

Kristian London is an American translator who divides his time between Seattle and Helsinki.


‘Classy and engrossing drama.'

- Daily Mail

'Smart, slightly futuristic, nicely plotted.'


'A hugely ambitious book. Literary fiction meets sci-fi meets thriller in a gripping exploration of animal rights, the light and dark of new technologies, international academia, and the dynamics within modern families. Excellent.'

- Will Dean, author of Dark Pines

'Remarkable... Valtonen's grip on plot and character is so masterful that his storytelling easily contains his restless speculation about influences on how we live now and where we might end up as our old value systems begin to crumble.'

- Anna Paterson, World Literature Today

'Well-crafted... They Know Not What They Do is a page-turner, skilfully translated by Kristian London.'

- Otago Daily Times (New Zealand)

'A perfect novel for our time, They Know Not What They Do is a satirical critique of our contemporary infatuation with innovation, fuelled by corporate greed and a desire to do everything faster. With a sympathetic hand, Valtonen skillfully creates a perfect storm of ethical conundrums...all tied into a cautionary tale about a man struggling with the consequences of his decisions.'

- Shelf Awareness

'A contemporary novel that doesn't lose sight of perennial dilemmas.'

- Kirkus

'They Know Not What They Do is neither indulgent, nor self-satisfied, nor glib, but charts its own course toward an understanding of contemporary society and the importance of perspective. And a page turner to boot - huzzah!'

- Words Without Borders

'This Scandinavian thriller is the perfect read for long winter nights. Winner of the 2014 Finlandia Prize, They Know Not What They Do weaves family drama and high stakes with chilling results.'

- Paste

'This hugely ambitious work of contemporary realism offers a dramatic warning about the influence of digital culture.'

- Booklist

‘An engaging and fascinating exploration of the difficulties of modern parenting in the face of social media and technological advancements.'

- Guy Bolton, author of The Pictures

‘The novel addresses a multitude of themes wrapped up in a carefully plotted story with a thread of suspense running through it... The organisations whose tentacles are deeply embedded in so many aspects of our lives are unsettlingly well drawn - step forward Google - and the plotting is cleverly executed.'

- A Life in Books

'Contemporary literature simply doesn't get better than this. A stunning work.'

- Helsingin Sanomat, Finland

'A portrait of our society and a futuristic thriller, the Finnish writer Jussi Valtonen draws a picture of our times as brilliant as it is chilling.'

- L’Express, France

'One of the most extraordinary books of recent times.'

- Könyvutca, Hungary

'Valtonen creates a frightening dystopian suspense that keeps readers spellbound, all the while inciting them to reflect on ethics and morals.'

- L’Obs, France

'An ambitious, nuanced plea for compassion.'

- De Standaard, Belgium

'A thrilling, full-fledged, revolutionary, well-crafted work.'

- Vilmos Csányi, Est Ujság, Hungary

'They Know Not What They Do is a great novel that shows ambition and the willingness to take risks.'

- Sand am Meer, Austria

'They Know Not What They Do speaks to a large audience. There are few contemporary novels that can address both adolescents and middle-aged people, university professors and young green activists, parents and children, Europeans and Americans. […] Different opinions collide, but no one is right and no one is wrong. They simply see things differently, as if they were living in another dimension. That's what their tragedy is about.'

- Olvass bele literary blog, Hungary

'They Know Not What They Do is an arresting study of the relationship between science and ethics, and of people's inability to communicate with one another.'

- Finlandia Prize 2014 jury

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