Thursday, 1 November 2018

Crimson by Niviaq Korneliussen

Crimson by Niviaq Korneliussen
First published in Greenlandic by Milik Publishing in Greenland in October 2014. English language translation by Anna Halager published by Virago Press today, the 1st November 2018.

Featured in 5Books1Theme: Pride Month

How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Check for Crimson in these bookstores:

The Book Depository
Amazon US / Amazon UK

'The island has run out of oxygen. The island is swollen. The island is rotten. The island has taken my beloved from me. The island is a Greenlander. It's the fault of the Greenlander.'

In modern day Nuuk, Greenland, four friends explore their queer identities.

Fia breaks up with her long term boyfriend, and falls for Sara.

Sara is in love with Ivik who is about to break her heart with a deep secret.

Iviq struggles with gender dysphoria, and transgender identity, as the rest of the young adults on Nuuk become addicted to Facebook, listen to American pop music and get blind drunk in bars and at house parties.

Then there's Inuk, with a secret too - something that will take him to limits of madness, and question what it means to be a Greenlander, while Arnaq, the party queen pulls the strings of manipulation, bringing these five lives to a shocking crescendo.

I hadn't read anything by a Greenlandic author before so was excited to be approved for this unusual novella by Niviaq Korneliussen. Through the words of Korneliussen's young narrators we are shown how young people in Greenland are struggling to find their identities, both as individuals and as a nation emerging from Danish colonialism. There is a dark undercurrent throughout the story with destructive behaviours such as alcoholism and familial abuse being seen almost as normal. I was surprised at the emphasis our protagonists put on going to all-night parties, seemingly daily, and drinking to oblivion. Even by student standards this is excessive self-destruction!

Tellingly though, Korneliussen doesn't particularly explore this behaviour, but focuses instead on Fia, Sara and Iviq coming to terms with their sexuality and the way in which this changes the dynamics of their social group. Each of the four take a turn in speaking directly to the reader which allowed me to understand their innermost deliberations, however I didn't feel that the individual voices were always strong enough so I sometimes lost track of whose head I was in. Korneliussen includes text conversations as well as direct speech in creating an immediate and contemporary feel for this fast-moving novella. I also liked the music references, especially frequent returns to the apt Joan Jett song Crimson And Clover which I guess inspired the novella's title. Crimson does feel like a debut (which, of course, it is), but Korneliussen has an interesting voice. I look forward to reading her future work.

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Niviaq Korneliussen / Novellas / Books from Greenland


  1. Huh, I don't think I've ever read anything by a Greenlandic author or set in Greenland. Sounds interesting, I'm glad you liked it!

    1. I was delighted to stumble across this one and it's got a distinctive voice which I appreciated

  2. Wow this sounds like such a unique and interesting read,the diversity also sounds fantastic.

    Tori @ In Tori Lex

    1. I was impressed by Crimson, especially as it's a debut!