Saturday, 6 May 2017

A View of the Kingdom

Nauja Lynge: Ivalu's Color, IPI, 223pp.

Nauja Lynge’s novel is something of a mixed bag: on one level it’s an intervention in the Danish policy debate on Greenland’s status and its exposure to big-power politics, connected with the increased interest in the Arctic region on the part of China and Russia, the Arctic ice-melt due to climate change, the issues surrounding uranium extraction and the approaching reality of Greenlandic independence.  On another it’s a crime story about a trial, an abduction, a case of espionage and a triple murder. The two narratives sit somewhat uneasily beside each other. In their course, however, the reader learns a great about Greenland, its people and history – and in a sense the book is saved from its weaknesses by the tenacity and passionate engagement of its author, whose own experience lies transparently in the background of this autobiographical work.

Perhaps what comes through most clearly from the occasional confusion is Nauja Lynge’s own message: she appeals to Denmark and the Danish people to take more interest in their former colony, and to accept their share of the responsibility for Greenland’s past, present and future, which are inextricably linked. In this, the Danish Realm, the rigsfælleskab of Denmark, Faroes and Greenland – has a vital role to play. Although Greenland left the European Union more than 30 years ago, it needs to consider the consequences of isolation. For if the present vacuum in the Arctic is not filled by a Western presence, it will be occupied by Russia and China, who are waiting in the wings to move into a region they see as ripe for economic, military and scientific development:

Chinese morals and values lie far from Danish values. So when Greenland allies with China and Russia, it positions China as a hostile nation with low morals, which wedges itself into the Kingdom.

It would be interesting to read the original Danish-language version of this book, but it was not available. The English version of the book is not a translation: it's an adaptation, a retelling of the story, with elements of public debate inserted into the story in a way that is at times perplexingly uneven. Throughout, the style is a blend of journalism and crime fiction writing. In the first 90 pages or so the English is distinctly wobbly, with passages that need further editing. Thereafter, however, the style and grammar improve quite a bit, and by the end of the novel – or documentary narrative – the reader feels much more at home, with a sense above all of having learned something.

See also in this blog: Ivalu's Color

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