The prophet of Eternal Fjord was a book that arrived late last year and grabbed me straight away from the Jacket Copy. Plus my lack of knowledge of Greenland the main setting for the book, I have wanted to read a book about Greenland after two things Hearing the pogues song Greenland whalers that evoked the world of the whalers when a place like Greenland was central to the world for it supplies from the whaling industry and also learning a bit about it at school in a project about vikings . So this book seemed the perfect chance to learn a little history of Greenland at a pivotal moment in their history .From a prize-winning Danish novel.This is Kim Leine fourth book and this one won the prestigious Nordic council Literature prize.
The widow has come up here of her own accord, no one forced her. She has beaten the lice from her finest clothes and put them on. She has washed her hair in the urine tub of the communal house and tied it up. Silently observed by her heather cohabitants, she scrapped the sooty grease from her cheeks and consumed the good meal that had been put before her. Then she came up here, carried along by a lightness of step. Now she sits on the brink of happiness, expectant and with warmth in her cheeks, at the edge with her legs tucked decorously beneath her in the way all widows, the way she sits at home on the little side bench under the window opening.
The opening lines drag you in with this rich opening passage.
The prophets of Eternal Fjord is set in the late 1780’s. In 1787 Morten Falck a new priest from the hustle and bustle of Copenhagen is given a new job on Greenland, his job to get the Godless Inuit to convert to the Danish church he is consider the man for the job as he is very evangelical . So he sets of on a whaler ship top the far corner of the Danish empire. When he arrives he finds things are far worse than he had been lead to believe before he left, some of the villages have joined together and broken away from the Danish rule wanting their own freedom. Added to this Morten isn’t all he seems whilst studying he discover he had a liking for being close to women.So he arrives in Sukkertoppen with a priest in two minds surround by a harsh world.Ready to try to get the people of the Eternal Fjord on his side (this is the area that has formed their own colony away from Danish rule )
Jesus christ, our Heavenly father!
It gushes from him the moment he pulls up his cassock and sits down on the privy seat, a mud-like mass, almost without smell, an inexhaustible landslide of brown. His intestines writhe in agony, and yet there is a considerable element of joy at being able to release, to discharge this spray of filth and empty the bowels. He groans, bites his hand and chuckles. His sphincter blares and squelches, and then there is silence.
I know this is a rather bad passage but it capture the earthy dark feel of this world broken and with illness.
The book has a rich style almost like Dickens, I was also reminded of the world painted in Eleanor Cattons book The luminaries. This is also a world of tough men and brave women similar to Catton’s world. among these brave women would be the widow she is involved with the breakaway from Denmark but has also caught the eye of Morten. I loved the feel of a world at breaking point almost as though the string from Denmark to its distant outpost has been stretched, worn down by the sea and is ready to break. All seen through the eyes of this confused priest a man with his own demons trying to rid the locals of their demons. A classic tale of colony’s and colonism we could change this for any outpost of the british empire at the time they wanted to break away.Martin Aitken has done a wonderful job in the way he has kept what is a poetic dark world or Greenland.
Original title Profeterne i Evighedsfjorden
Translator Martin Aitken