The latest addition to my website is Laila Stien‘s Vekselsang (Antiphony)/ The novel tells the story of a Norwegian journalist who quits her job when she is accused of lacking initiative and heads off to the North, to write a book about the Sami. There are three chapters and in each chapter she spends time with a woman, each one younger than the previous one. The two older ones bemoan the changes to their culture, the influence of modern, Western culture and how their children, particularly their sons, move down South to find work. The youngest says the Sami, with all their many faults, have been studied to death, while she herself wants to go off to university. While the book is about the huge changes to the Sami culture it is also about fitting in as the narrator, we find, does not fit in with her family, any more than many of the Sami are drifting away from their culture and families.
The latest addition to my website is Hanne Ørstavik‘s Presten (The Pastor). The eponymous pastor is Liv. She had worked in southern Germany where she had befriended Kristiane but when Kristiane killed herself, she had applied for and got a job in the far North of Norway. However, things do not go well, not least because she had trouble fitting in and clearly does not have the right temperament to be a pastor, finding it difficult to comfort people in distress. She has also been working on a doctoral thesis on a Sami rebellion in 1852, which took place near where she is now working, and realises that the connection between the two cultures is Christianity – the Sami seemed to have adopted a more fervent Christianity at the time – while language, ultimately the language of the Bible, not at that time available in Sami, is also important. However the struggles of Liv and other women characters are the key to this book.
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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