Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Modern Greenlandic writing

Karen Langgård's Nordica essay on modern Greenlandic writing gives an interesting perspective on the development of fiction and poetry in Greenland - but it's rather a bleak one. In some of the author portraits I can see points of contact or similarity with Sami and North Finnish culture, and an author like Vivi Lynge Petrussen sounds as though she might have something in common with Maria Peura, for example.

But one major problem seems to be the emphasis on "colonial" and "post-colonial" modes of perception and expression which have apparently come to dominate public debate and also literary discourse in Greenland. It looks as though this ideological dispute has affected everything, from education to language and reading and writing - and not in a positive way.

Karen's essay made me want to read some of the works she mentions, but so many of them are marked "ikke oversat"...

Nordic or not


Michael Peverett said...

The 2005 Nordbok publication in English, "Nordic Voices" (no relation to this blog) includes quite a long essay on Greenlandic writing, along with pieces on various other smaller literatures (Roma, Kveeni, Same, etc) within the Nordic zone. Copies of this book may still be available for free on request, details below:

David McDuff said...

Thanks, Michael. Unfortunately that email address doesn't work any more, apparently.

Eric Dickens said...

Yes, "ikke oversat" was also what struck me, as I noted in a comment on the "Nordic or not" thread. What can be done in concrete terms? Clearly, it is almost exclusively up to those Greenlanders that are (almost) bilingual, because I cannot imagine that there are many people, even Inuit people from Canada, who also have an interest in literature and could translate Greenlandic literature into larger languages.

Greenlandic literature is in a Catch-22 situation in that no one can assess the literature on literary merits until it is translated, and it is not likely to be translated unless some individual(s), capable of translating it, rate it highly enough to bother translating it.

I hope a new generation of literary translators arises that can help Greenlandic literature obtain a clearer profile abroad. I hope too that I'm not being too idealistic.

I have not yet chased up any of the names I listed on the other thread by Googling them. But I'll tell you of any findings in English, Danish, German, or any other language that visitors to this blog are likely to know.

Eric Dickens said...

A quick trip on Google has brought up the following book:

Grønlandsk litteratur. En kommenteret antologi. Redaktion og oversættelse Chr. Berthelsen og Per Langgård. Centrum, 1983. 304 sider, illustreret.

Den lange indledning side 11-56 og de udførlige kommentarer før og mellem teksteksemplerne gør bogen til en lille grønlandsk litteraturhistorie. Bibliografien side 299-304 indeholder supplerende biografiske oplysninger om de medtagne forfattere, samt bibliografi over forfatternes (vigtigste) udgivelser i bogform. Litteraturhenvisninger til andre (seks) værker side 304.

It solves no problems if you can't read Danish, and it's over 25 years old. But with its 304 pages, it's a start.

There was an article in Nordic Literature on Kristian Olsen aaju in 2004 here. He is an artist as well as an author.

Hans Anthon Lynge is a filmscript writer. He does tackle the postcolonial theme head on, from what I can gather.

There is a list of the Greenlandic nominations for the Nordic Literature Prize over the years here.

David McDuff said...

I seem to remember that there was an Inuit section in Martin Allwood's English-language anthology of Nordic poetry, but I don't have that book now.

Eric Dickens said...

From my dabblings and Googlings this afternoon, it does look as if you've got to know Danish if you want to access anything written originally in Kalaallisut, as Western Greenlandic, the dominant dialect, appears to be called.

If you look at the Atuagkat Bookstore website and look at their Skønlitteratur webpages, it would seem that the Danish language is the Cicero to Greenlandic literature. You can find books there, in Danish translation, by Hans Anthon Lynge, Ole Korneliussen, Kelly Bethelsen, Aqigssiaq Møller, and Kristian Olsen aaju. I suppose this is quite respectable for a country of about 60,000 inhabitants.