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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

(Last Night in Nuuk)

Niviaq Korneliussen

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To purchase Last Night in Nuuk

Title: Crimson
Author: Niviaq Korneliussen
Genre: Novel
Written: 2014 (Eng. 2018)
Length: 173 pages
Original in: Greenlandic
Availability: Last Night in Nuuk - US
Crimson - UK
Last Night in Nuuk - Canada
Homo sapienne - France
Nuuk #ohneFilter - Deutschland
from: Bookshop.org (US)
  • Greenlandic title: Homo sapienne
  • UK title: Crimson
  • US title: Last Night in Nuuk
  • Translated (from the author's Danish translation) by Anna Halager

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Our Assessment:

B : somewhat simple, but effectively done

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Guardian . 2/11/2018 H.J. Parkinson
Le Monde . 10/3/2018 Anne Pélouas

  From the Reviews:
  • "The novel starts promisingly. Korneliussen is very good at capturing the fracturing of a relationship (.....) The rest of the book is similar in its clumsiness. Huge life changes happen in the course of a paragraph. (...) There is a personal deus ex machina in each chapter, or a revelation that is dealt with in a single sentence and never mentioned again (.....) The book’s examination of Greenlandic identity is interesting (.....) Crimson would be better off targeted at young adults" - Hannah Jane Parkinson, The Guardian

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Crimson (published in the US as Last Night in Nuuk) is set in the Greenlandic capital of Nuuk -- a small town by international standards, with a population of less than 20,000. Each of the novel's five parts centers on one of the five main characters -- siblings Fia and Inuk, Inuk's best friend Arnaq, and partners Ivik and Sara. While the action in each part centers around a specific protagonist, the sections are not all limited to their perspective, with Korneliussen also using exchanges of letters and text messages alongside more conventional narrative in them, for example. Specific events are also revisited from different perspectives as the novel moves forward, the novel an interwoven ronde.
       The characters are still young, and they are struggling with a variety of issues -- sexual and gender identity being particularly prominent among them.
       The novel begins with Fia, who has been in a steady relationship for a while now:

Peter. One man. Three years. Thousands of plans. Millions of dinner invitations.
       She can't bear it any longer, however, and she leaves him, leading to a sense of freedom but not yet relief -- but she soon finds actual feeling in finding how attracted she is to Sara, something completely new for her. She, like the other characters, continues to feel turmoil -- "How do you say lust in Greenlandic ?" she wonders to herself -- and the resolutions do not come easily. Ultimately, however, it will come full circle, in the final section narrated by Sara.
       Fia's brother, Inuk, chooses physical escape, actually leaving Greenland and going to Copenhagen. His close friend Arnaq -- who Fia moves in with, after leaving Peter -- is a journalist, and something he let slip about a local politician blows up on them, impacting both his and Arnaq's lives. Inuk struggles in particular with sexual identity: he is poisoned by the intense homophobia of Greenlandic society, even as it is clear that he is, in fact, homosexual. Korneliussen quite effectively shows him trying to come to terms with this in his communications with his sister and Arnaq, as well as his own tortured ruminations on Greenlandic identity and being. Noting that: "Greenland isn't a good place to be openly gay right now", he can only find his true self abroad: "Finally I am home", he can finally say at the conclusion of his difficult journey, with home not a physical location but rather the terminus of accepting who he is ("I'm into men").
       Ivik, who is in a relationship with Sara, has a different identity crisis. Always a tomboy, she never felt like she fit in, but finally found a comfortable environment of accepting people -- including Sara -- who aren't bothered by her being "into women". Now in her early twenties, however, she finds she no longer wants to be intimate with Sara, even though she loves her. She tries to explain: "I don't know why I am the way I am", but it takes them a while to figure out what that actually means, until finally the penny drops and they realize the more fundamental identity-issue that is at the root of the problem.
       Crimson offers an interesting glimpse of twentysomething-life in Nuuk -- a limited sliver of the whole, as the novel remains very focused on these main characters, but still giving some sense of life in this unusual place that is both provincial and very much part of the modern world. The variety of the writing in the different voices of the five protagonists -- presenting their own thoughts, but also in various forms of dialogue (conversation, texts, letters) -- is appealing. Their personal issues and struggles, reflecting different facets of Greenlandic society (but, of course, also universal), are presented somewhat simply, with abrupt turns and conclusions, but there's sufficient variety to hold the reader's interest.
       While the writing can be blunt and, at times, simplistic, the novel is structured and presented in an effectively intricate way, making for a cohesive whole. There is a sense of a young author at work here, experimenting in a variety of ways, but even as that's somewhat hit and miss, on the whole Korneliussen shows a deft touch. One might wish for more depth, especially given that the locale and life there are largely unfamiliar to most readers -- the glossary that's provided is helpful, but only touches on the surface-layer -- but even as is Crimson is a fine and interesting work.

- M.A.Orthofer, 28 October 2022

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Crimson: Reviews: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Greenlandic author Niviaq Korneliussen was born in 1990

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© 2022 the complete review

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