Translated from the original Danish by Martin Aitken
Comments from the judges
An idealistic Norwegian called Falck Morten arrives in Copenhagen of the 1780s, hungry to know why, in the words of Rousseau, ‘Man is born free and everywhere he is in chains’. Though he is drawn to medicine, he chooses the missionary’s work and after a series of intellectual and sexual revelations, he boards a ship to pagan Greenland. Greenland: ‘the night that separated the evening when I retired to sleep cheerful and young, from the morn when I awoke a palsied old man.’ This sublimely written and stunningly imagined work is unlike any other historical novel. One of its achievements, conveyed in the masterful translation by Martin Aitken, is that its epic philosophical and narrative scope is held in prose that is intimate, contemporary, and wondrousy balanced between humour and poetry. Told through the inner life and dangerous adventures of Falck Morton and the dwellers of the fjords, this study of human desire, the tyranny of dogma, and the need to belong, is also a love-letter to a little-known land and a major contribution to the literature of place. Who can forget the dreams of the Greenland prophetess Maria Magdalene, or the scene where Falck sees a procession of the dead, including himself, crossing from one fjord to another? The uncanny world of Greenland’s wilderness and the people who belong there, as much as those who arrive to act out their fantasies, will stay with you for a very long time.
About the book
Idealistic, misguided Morten Falch is a newly ordained priest sailing to Greenland in 1787 to convert the Inuit to the Danish church. A rugged outpost battered by harsh winters, Sukkertoppen is overshadowed by the threat of dissent; natives from neighbouring villages have united to reject Danish rule and establish their own settlement atop Eternal Fjord. As Falck becomes involved with those in his care – his ambitious catechist, a lonely trader’s wife, and a fatalistic widow he comes to love – his faith and reputation are dangerously called into question.
About the Author & Translator
Kim Leine is a Danish-Norwegian novelist. He received the Golden Lauren award and the Nordic Council’s Literature Prize for his fourth novel, The Prophets of Eternal Fjord.
Martin Aitken is an acclaimed Danish-language translator.
The winner of the prestigious Nordic Council’s literature prize is a remarkable historic novel about the colonies in West-Greenland at the end of the 18th century, in which Leine skilfully brings the past to life. This is a real masterpiece in which the enigmatic main protagonist , Marten Pedersen, takes you on an unpredictable journey from the streets of Copenhagen to the frozen outskirts of Greenland. A novel full of lust, faith, calamity and persecution.
Kim Leine charts the tragic events that intertwine seemingly disparate lives, illuminating the brutal and tender impulses of those seeking redemption and the shifting line between religion and mysticism. At once exotic and disturbingly relevant, a starting point for reflection and above all, a unique and compelling reading experience.
Leine’s saga follows Morten Falck, a deeply flawed Danish priest and missionary, from the alleys of Copenhagen to the fjords of Greenland. Crafted in a way that forces the reader to feel the itch of crawling lice and smell the stench of rotten blubber, this brutal yet majestic novel explores the complex relationship of the colonizer and the colonized.