Niviaq Korneliussen

Niviaq Korneliussen

Niviaq Korneliussen

Photographer
Angu Motzfeldt
Niviaq Korneliussen: Naasuliardarpi. Novel. Milik Publishing, 2020. Nominated for the 2021 Nordic Council Literature Prize.

Naasuliardarpi (not translated into English) is a fantastically well-written tale about the backside of mainstream Greenland among young people struggling to be allowed to live the lives they want. It is a tale of love, friendship, sorrow, and unspoken words and feelings. It is a brave and ruthless tale about a people who have made suicide such a taboo that they refuse to talk about the feelings of the bereaved – and it does so in a way that is humorous, satirical, and deeply serious.

“Female. 25 years. Found hanging in partner’s apartment. ‘We’ll always remember you,’ they write on Facebook and tag you, but the truth is that very few actually do, because most people move on, scroll on, and only remember you when they think they’ve seen you in town, but no, because she’s not here anymore.”

The unnamed protagonist in Naasuliardarpi experiences her first suicide at the age of 13. She’s now a young woman about to embark on her own path in life. She’s recently fallen in love with a lovely woman and has just begun studying at the University of Aarhus. The world is her oyster. But she has some demons that she cannot control. She cannot fit in a family where everything is clean, tidy, and heterosexual. She doesn’t quite feel that she’s deserved the love of her girlfriend, and often ruins things for herself and others. Gradually, her detour picks up speed and ultimately power is taken from her.

The novel runs on two tracks – the devilish tale of the protagonist’s push towards the point of no return, and short texts about suicide to introduce each chapter, counting down from 45 – the number of suicides committed in Greenland in 2019.

Suicide is a huge societal problem in Greenland, and one that Korneliussen is personally very concerned about and which she accuses society’s responsible politicians and officials of doing far too little to address.

“In her new novel, Niviaq Korneliussen attacks Greenland’s high suicide rate with tenderness, aggression, originality, and razor-sharp precision,” wrote Weekendavisen in its review of the Danish edition Blomsterdalen, which was published by Gyldendal simultaneously with the Greenlandic edition, both version written by the author.

This quote suggests that the novel’s literary qualities are combined with the author’s burning commitment to do something about the serious suicide problem. Naasuliardarpi puts an end to the taboo surrounding suicide, while the fiction provides opportunities that many campaigns have failed to take advantage of.

Naasuliardarpi has attracted much warranted attention and enthusiasm in both Greenland and Denmark. The novel, with its five-star reviews, has already been nominated for the Politiken Literature Prize, the Montana Literature Prize, and the Critics’ Prize.

At the age of just 31, Korneliussen is not an unknown in Greenlandic literature – since the release of her debut novel HOMO sapienne (2014), she has been something of a literary star of the country. The novel became a revolutionary breakthrough in modern Greenlandic literature, was featured on the front page of the Danish newspaper Politiken, and from there things moved quickly – the novel was nominated for the Nordic Council Literature Prize in 2015, and has since been translated into more than 10 languages, has been performed as a play, and will shortly be made into a film.