Kate’s book club read Kim Leine’s historical novel The Prophets of Eternal Fjord, translated by Martin Aitken, and discover they have wildly differing opinions.
‘My front teeth are quite fallen out but for five that dangle like scoundrels of the night from a gallows’ complains the main character, Morten Falck, as we follow his experiences attempting to convert the Inuit to Christianity in late-18th-century Greenland. Posted to a remote community, Falck discovers that navigating the local politics and winning the trust of the inhabitants is much harder than he had imagined.
Idealistic and misguided, Morten Falck is a newly ordained priest sailing to Greenland in 1787. A rugged outpost battered by harsh winters, Sukkertoppen is overshadowed by the threat of dissent; natives from neighboring villages have united to reject Danish rule and establish their own settlement atop Eternal Fjord. As Falck becomes involved with those in his care-his ambitious catechist, a lonely trader’s wife, and a fatalistic widow he comes to love-his faith and reputation are dangerously called into question.
An intense, strange, dark-edged novel that was shortlisted for the 2017 International Dublin Literary Award and won the prestigious Nordic Council’s Literature Prize. But did this make for a great book club book?
Online reviewers are nicely divided. Geoff Crocker gave it five stars, commenting: ‘Kim Leine’s magnificent, richly imaginative, absorbing tale paints a bleak, dire portrait of the primitive human condition pitted against nature in the raw. One longs for a redemptive possibility, but they all close off. Martin Aitken’s excellent translation is seamless.’ ‘Springer’, however, gave it one star, calling it ‘bleak and dismal’, a review Laura might well agree with.
Listen in to our spoiler-free debate and decide whether Prophets is for you.
Getting away from 18th-century dentistry and lice for a moment, we also interview Frances Ambler, features editor of Oh Comely, the magazine that inspires people to be creative, talk to their neighbours and explore new things. Their book club champions new books by women writers and Frances tells us about some of her favourites. Expect some great recommendations for your reading pile.
Listen via the media player above or your favourite podcast app using this link.
Book recommendations for The Prophets of Eternal Fjord episode
- The North Water, Ian McGuire
- Days Without End, Sebastian Barry
- The Blue Flower, Penelope Fitzgerald
- The Lucky Ones, Julianne Pachico
- The Idiot, Elif Batuman
- The Forever War, Joe Haldeman
- To The Ends of the Earth trilogy by William Golding.
A very different book, but you might also enjoy our episode on Michel the Giant, An African in Greenland.
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Comments on The Prophets of Eternal Fjord
Have you read Prophets? Or Kim Leine’s latest book. What did you think? What book would you recommend?