Kirsti Paltto: Guržo luottat


The latest addition to my website is Kirsti Paltto‘s Guržo luottat, the first Sámi novel on my website, and, apparently, the first novel written by a Sámi woman. I have not put a title in English as the Sámi sources I have found do not given a translation for the title. The Finnish translation of the book was Run Now, Son of Njalla while the Germans means Signs of Destruction. The book tells the story of a group of Sámi people in Finland at the end of World War II and during the period just after. As the Finns were fighting the Soviet Union, they were nominally allies with the Germans but the Germans took advantage of this to essentially invade Finland. At the beginning of the book, the Sámi have to evacuate though some, in particular, Antaras, our hero, decide to stay illegally. The first part of the book follows the story of Antaras, the others who stay behind and Aimo, a young Sámi who was in the Finnish army but has got separated from his detachment and joins up with Antaras and his friends. When the war ends, the people cannot immediately return because there are many mines in the area. When it is finally safe to return, Sofe, Antaras’ wife, and her children do return, though one child has died in evacuation. When they get home they find chaos but no Antaras. Is he simply herding his reindeer or has he fled because he did not join the Finnish army when summoned (he is, in fact, a Norwegian national) or because he has stolen some of the reindeer of the other people, as some accuse him of doing? We follow the stories of the community as they try and put their lives back together, await Antaras’ return and deal with the the problems they have as a semi-nomadic, minority people inside a larger nation that tends to look down on them. It is an excellent story, not sentimentalised in any way, though Paltto is clearly concerned about the fate of her people. Sadly, it is not available in English.

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