If faith cannot save even those who are wider, what can it offer at all to those who will be forced to accept it?
I won’t wait. Not even the book waited to slap me in the first pages with a scene so harsh, so cruel, so beastly, that I continued to read on with my mouth open, although it was too late when I received the book and did not plan to read past the first chapter.
It is the end of the eighteenth century and Morten Falck, a young Norwegian, is given a rare opportunity. His father subordinated the destiny and property of his family to one reasonable, noble goal – to provide the best education for his only son, in order to build a secure future for a respectable man.
Despite actually wanting to study medicine with all her heart, Morten Falck can’t ignore his father’s wishes. He goes to Copenhagen to become a priest, clutching Rousseau’s works tightly in his hands, constantly finding comfort and wonder in the words of the philosopher he admires.
Despite arriving in Copenhagen with the best of intentions, being sent there to seek knowledge and build a reputation, young Morten very quickly discovers that his body has a curiosity more vivid than that of his mind, and that what he does with a grin is taken away to all that as a good man, especially one who is to grow in the shelter of God’s love, he wishes to do.
Life in Copenhagen is slowly but surely turning into a chessboard of scandalous moves and a scandal has almost swallowed and drowned a young priest. Aware that he has gambled his chance in the city and is ready to start all over again, Morten Falck is relieved to see the opportunity presented to him – to go to Greenland as a young priest, on a ten-year mission to Danish colonies teeming with natives whose souls need to be saved from sin and eternal ruin.
Morten Falck is ready. It’s going to be hard, he knows that. But there are many sins to be atoned for and for this his transformation into a bearer of light and eternal salvation Morten is ready for all the sacrifices that await him in these expanses chained by snow and ice. Filled with idealistic aspirations, pious feelings and noble plans, Morten Falck bravely embarks on a journey of life in which, he feels, he will change both his life and the lives of unhappy, lost natives.
Neither Morten nor the reader, I can say it now, had any idea where they were going. If they had known, they would surely have jumped from the boat into the cold sea and swam back, risking freezing and drowning. Not necessarily in that order.
Only six years after he arrived in the colonies will Morten wish he had done so.
He had not yet managed to disembark honestly from the ship that had been driving him to Greenland during the torturous and difficult weeks, when he began to experience his first crises while staying with the sailors. If these are baptized people, what awaits him with those unbaptized? What kind of damn sinners are waiting upstairs? What kind of people does he and his brothers in Christ have to deal with, who for years have wanted to give them the pure light of a new, honest life?
From the moment he reaches Greenland soil, Morten’s adventure begins. I say this “adventure” with my tongue in my cheek; the cynic in me cannot refrain from rejoicing.
Life in Greenland is far from the idyllic, inspiring connection to nature that Morten, reading Rousseau, dreamed of. Life itself is terribly difficult in this climate. Relations between Danes and natives, but also Danes and Norwegians, are complex. To put it mildly. Moving around in the colonies means learning where the traps of resentment, secrecy, bribery, deception, lies, and worse, much worse crimes that Morten is just beginning to uncover are set.
At first he is disgusted with them, this man in whom all the ideals and pious virtues he brought from Copenhagen quickly burn under the relentless flames of hunger, isolation and cold.
He then tries proudly to fulfill his mission, the noble task of a holy man, but soon realizes that the world he came to is inhabited by mentally retarded children in the bodies of adults living in disorder and debauchery, that those he tries to convert are more like animals than man. And he realizes, slowly but surely – that he himself is no different.
What the reader will further witness — and the book is long — is such an incredible, spectacular moral decline, that by the end of the book he will shake his head in disbelief and stare blinking at what he has just read, wondering if he read it well.
Morten Falck will, in that long fall of his, hit every conceivable bar on the scale of sin. On the margin of one page, undecided whether to cry or laugh, I wrote: “I would not be surprised if this one invented some completely new sins.”
Morten crises are long and deep, and not just spiritual. He before our eyes from someone who dreamed of becoming a moral and intellectual role model, as if becoming a model of all the ways in which man can fail.
On the back of the book it is written that this is “a masterful love letter to the frozen heart of the dark Danish colonial past”. That the book, the masterpiece, is. That looking at Denmark’s dark colonial past is perhaps the closest – and mildest – that can be said about it. I only know that there is nothing “loving” in this; there is hardly any love. And I think of that as a compliment.
From the outside, the book looks like a clip (albeit a 600-page-long clip) of the problematic and unfortunate history of a country and its colonies; however, the depth and breadth of the problems and topics the author has ambitiously addressed, and the cold rationality with which he serves the reader with the naturalistic details of real life — the real man — make this book a startling analysis of both man himself and the political and religious aspirations of a historical period. northern Europe.
If this book is a love letter to anyone and anything, then it is a love letter to Nature; and not to that of man. On the eternal, icy, indifferent whiteness of Nature, nothing can be hidden. The man is so clearly outlined in the background that he does not allow anything to be hidden.
Nature, Leine shows us, is a force that shows us man by breaking and squeezing him; so it shows us what we are really made of. In the challenging grip of Nature, all civilizational glazes crack so easily, revealing Man to us. Do we like what we see?
I remember that on one occasion, during a lecture in the course “Psychology”, the professor told us: “Everything you can imagine, every abomination you can think of, believe me, once someone did something to someone.”
And yet, no matter how much Leine kills a man in this book, no matter how much he shows him what a man is when Nature removes all the digitality of status and education from him, the book feels deep compassion for this animal that suffers most for itself, for what is.
I also like how Leine, through the book, through different scenes, compared the ideas of what man wants to become and the reality of what man is. In one paragraph we have a sensual kiss, and in the other the cramps of unstoppable diarrhea. I’m not even exaggerating.
I, who used to love reading Émile Zola, was delighted by the sobering moments of this book. I, for whom psychology is my first love, am fascinated by the cold analysis and descriptions of human behavior in which the reader can (if he can), like Nature, remain only an observer. So he can really learn the most about man.
All those who are admonished because they constantly admonish the Church and her representatives in this book will find deep satisfaction and a treasure trove from which to draw hands and fists full of provocative questions.
Are the natives and savages really all those whom the Church has baptized all over the world? Even today, are many more blackmailed into believing in God than they are convinced of his existence? If you want and need a doctor and a school, and the only one who offers it to you, offers it under one single condition – do you really have a choice?
How many people throughout history (but even today) have been exploited in this way and forced into lives that have been imposed on them, that are not natural to them? What is it like to depend on people who present themselves to you as messengers of God, and alone, when they stand up with their four legs, they can barely stand on those two?
Would all these missionaries have time to convert so that half of the native population would not make their own?
Dynamite book. No wonder she brought Kim Leine prestigious literary awards and fame beyond his homeland.
All his life, Leine says, the writer wanted to drink, but he became a medical brother and a drug addict. When we (know) this, it becomes perfectly clear to us where he drew ideas for those vivid descriptions of the human body, as well as for the knowledge of the inner turmoil of an addict.
He wrote this book while living in Greenland, in a small town with only three hundred inhabitants. In 2013, she won the prestigious Nordic Council Literature Prize, as well as the Golden Laurels award given by Danish booksellers.
In an interview with the Ozy portal, Leine said that the life of his antihero, Morten Falck, pretty much follows his life path. And he, like Morten, made a circle from Norway, through Copenhagen to Greenland, and then back to Copenhagen.
“I’m just re-creating my own story in the 18th century and dragging Morten through it.”Kim Leine
I hope, my dear ones, that this is not true. That is, that it is true only insofar as the author thinks of his own geographical migrations and of his own psychological and creative crises.
Otherwise, I would rather watch it behind bars than, say, at a book presentation.
If you want a book through which one grows up quickly and which relentlessly scrapes the pink scales from innocent eyes, which our pastors have abundantly pasted on our corneas, then a grotesque but masterfully written literary treat awaits you.
You are free to count on going to the list of winter recommendations right away.
Thank you for your attention and patience!