Magazine article World Literature Today

The Prophets of Eternal Fjord

Magazine article World Literature Today

The Prophets of Eternal Fjord

Article excerpt

Kim Leine. The Prophets of Eternal Fjord. Martin Aitken, tr. New York. Liveright (W.W. Norton, distr.). 2015. 562 pages.

Kim Leine struck literary gold with his fourth novel, The Prophets of Eternal Fjord. It is a big book and a great one too: disturbing, fascinating, confrontational, carefully and engagingly realistic, funny and deeply affecting in its unblinking humanity. The setting is exotic-Greenland some 250 years ago-but despite the formal, sometimes archly "authentic" style, the vitality of the writing bridges distance in time and place.

Leine, a Norwegian-Danish ex-nurse who spent fifteen years on Greenland, has journeyed into his own past and reshaped it in the late-eighteenth-century life of his protagonist, Morten Falck. Through Falck's eyes, we come to understand the story of the ill-fated but resilient Greenland Inuit- most of us for the first time.

Falck is a rational romantic, a cleareyed observer doomed to get involved; his mantra is Rousseau's paradox: Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains. He studies in Copenhagen-theology officially, to please his father, but medicine on the sly-falls a little in love, passes his exams, and is ordained. Then, as often in Leine's stories, chance and personality interact to create the unexpected: Falck is picked for a post as minister in Greenland and missionary to any still-unreformed natives in the Danish colony.

The title refers to real people and places. The prophets were a charismatic pair of evangelical Inuit whose followers built a community on the inhospitable banks of Eternal Fjord, all as revealed to them by Jesus. …

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