Saturday 29 December 2018


Crimson by Niviaq Korneliussen   {Reviewed by STELLA}
Greenland is a small country, and the town of Nuuk, where Crimson is set, even smaller. Especially so for the characters in Niviaq Korneluissen’s novel about being a Greenlander and being young and queer. There are five distinct voices in the novel: Fia, who has just broken up with her long-term boyfriend; Inuk, Fia’s reporter brother who has just landed himself in a sticky situation; the wild and unreliable Arnaq, Inuk’s best friend who Fia is staying with while she finds her feet; Sara, a young woman who Fia is extremely attracted to; and Ivik, Sara’s girlfriend. As these characters dance a complex and messy polka around each other, the reader is hooked into the world of the young and confused. Korneluissen lays open prejudice, boredom and anger with humour (albeit black) and sympathy towards her fellow Greenlanders. The novel moves along at a clip as the young people go to parties, suffer hangovers, wheedle money and alcohol out of others, have personal crises, and find love. Crimson is enjoyable and believable and doesn’t shy away from painting a realistic picture. Fia’s despair and revulsion at her predictable relationship wakes her up - her complete annoyance finally drives her out of the mundane towards at first a crazy few weeks with party-girl Arnaq and then something more curious (a discovery about herself and her desires), to something ultimately more satisfying. Arnaq, for all her bluster, is a vulnerable young woman with a complex past - trauma rooted in alcohol and neglect. Inuk escapes to Denmark after finding himself in a tricky situation, yet this flight just pulls him back tighter to his homeland despite the homophobic attitudes that are ironically ingrained in him as well as in society. Crimsonisn’t all doom and gloom - in fact, the lively writing gives it a lightness that keeps you engaged. The different viewpoints are the exceptional part of this slice-of-life novel - each voice is distinct even while their problems and joys are shared. Each story adds to and builds on the former, with the change in perspective creating those full circle moments. Korneluissen became a sensation in Greenland, especially among the young and LGBT communities, when she published her book in Greenlandic (rare for contemporary works) in 2014. She translated it into Danish, and in 2018 the English translation was produced. Like Sally Rooney’s Normal People, this is a book that will appeal for its candid approach to relationships, for its portrayal of imperfect yet endearing human behaviour, and for its reflections on claustrophobic situations. And you might find yourself humming along to Joan Jett's 'Crimson and Clover' as you read.

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