novel by Niviaq Korneliussen
HOMO sapienne follows the lives of five young people in the “little big city” of Nuuk, the capitol of Greenland. Each one is given a chapter in the book to narrate their feelings and experiences at a time in their lives, when they all experience profound changes.
In the first chapter we meet Fia. Fia has a plan. She is trying to fit in, to do the right thing, and has consequently moved in with her boyfriend Peter – but she is unhappy. She makes up excused to be away from their appartment, to not be touched by him, until she finally calls it off. But she doesn’t find happiness even after she leaves Peter – not untill she meets Sara. It is ‘love at first sight’, or at least obsession, lust, when she sees Sara at a party. Fia thinks up a new plan: No more sausage. But Sara already has a girlfriend…In the novel’s second chapter, we follow Fia’s brother Inuk who flees to Denmark after he involuntary has been outed. He has had an affair with a member of the Greenland parliament, who is married with children. The small-town community starts to boil with gossip and Schadenfreude. From far away, hiding in Denmark, he reflects on what it means to be Greenlandic for better or worse. In the third chapter, we meet Arnaq, who is the gossipmonger; someone who constantly throws turmoil into other people’s lives but never takes responsibility in her own life. She is the victim – the daughter of a sexually and emotional abusive father – a role and identity she clings to as well as hides behind. At the same time she can’t cope with her own acceptance of the horrors of the past, and Arnaq is therefore slowly but surely adopting the lifestyle of a wretched alcoholic. In the third chapter Ivinnguaq has to charge of her own life, by accepting that she is a man. She has a girlfriend, Sara, that she loves but will not sleep with her. It takes its toll in the relationship until they finally break it off, both realising that Ivinnguaq has to become Ivik.
… thus Sara, who is the main character in the final chapter, is free to accept and return Fia’s passionate desire for her. The circle is completed.
Through the five voices, the novel expresses different views on identity, sexuality and on being young in a modern Greenland where tabus are slowly broken down. As is the language which in the novel originally is a modern Greenlandic saturated with English slang and Danish frases.
Niviaq Korneliussen was born in 1990 in Nuuk and grew up in Nanortalik, a small town in Southern Greenland. She participated in 2012 in the short story competition Allatta! (let us write!) for young unpublished authors in Greenland, where she was appointed as one of ten winners. Her short story San Francisco was published the following year in the short story collection Young in Greenland – Young in the World (trans. title). This led to invitations to several Nordic literary events – among these was an invitation to lead one of the workshops in the newly started festival for Nordic literature, txt.ville 2014, in Copenhagen. All the while she was still active in Greenland where she co-arranged Poetry Slams as well as literary debates in Nuuk.
Niviaq’s independent novel debut came in the autumn of 2014 with HOMO sapienne, which she originally wrote in Greenlandic before rewriting it into Danish. Her novel was highly praised in the media and was since then nominated for the Politiken Literature Award as well as for the Nordic Council Literature Award, 2015.
Niviaq has also been awarded a prize by the Danish Arts Foundation’s literature committee that selected HOMO sapienne as one of five books from the fall, 2014, that has a significant impact on contemporary Danish literature today.
NB! A partial translation in English is available for this book
HOMO sapienne has created its own genre. This is unfiltered sexual realism… Niviaq Korneliussen’s novel debut about existential pain and release, breaks and reconciliations, shows us how there are many possible roads to liberation, and it deserves to been known far and wide.
Niviaq Korneliussen is 24 of age and a completely new voice in Greenlandic literaure. A voice that has been previously missed, and that I am sure we will hear much more from.
Kristeligt Dagblad, 03.12.2014
Niviaq Korneliussen has both the courage and the talent for treating the language exemplary un-exemplary, which leaves a convincing impression of a modern youth that could party almost anywhere but just happen to live in Nuuk. Write she can – the linguistic brushstroke is original.
There is a youthful global awareness in HOMO sapienne that is expressed in the way in which american popculture flows through the text – as when the song ”Crimson & Clover” played by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts figures as a recurring reference throughout the novel, and as when Niviaq Korneliussen refers to YouTube-links in the back of the book.
With just 171 pages it is a rather short novel, but what it lacks in volume it makes up for in raw masses of content and mediation. This is a wonderful mix of banging punchlines and poetry – it is well written and vibrant.
Korneliussen writes crushingly honest about sex, sexual assaults and social problems, but more than anything the novel is about being true to oneself.
Trelleborgs Allehanda, 05.08.2015
HOMO sapienne is a novel about finding out, who you really are, inside this demanding and lusting shell, we call the body.