Når landet mørknar
Published by Samlaget, 2018
A magnificent historical novel
The year is 1293. Arni Vilhjálmsson, a young boy, is rowing out on his first walrus hunt. After the hunt, a girl stands before him. She looks down at the beast he has slain, her eyes full of defiance, and her words full of scorn. Then she turns and runs away from him, without looking back. Her name is Eir.
In the Norsemen’s Western Settlement, on Greenland, a sense of unease has been creeping in. The walrus that gave the settlers their wealth have been retreating. The ships that used to sail from Norway and Iceland to trade there have become few and far between. The Greenlanders’ own vessels are rotting. The people are wondering: is this the end?
Arni dreams of one day building his own ship and sailing towards the lands further west, seeking timber, iron and hope for the future. Eir is part of that dream. In this quest for a future, Arni is even willing to defy his own chieftain, gods, and the laws of men.
Tore Kvæven made his debut with Hard is the Law of My Land (Hard er mitt lands lov, 2010), a novel about a Viking voyage into the heart of Africa, which critics called an ‘impressive epos’. When the Land Darkens is a dramatic story of destiny, with highly convincing portrayals of people and nature delivered through colourful and powerful language, transporting readers back to Greenland at a fascinating time.
“ A superb Norwegian novel! “ Score: 6 out of 6
Get this book while stocks last! Tore Kvæven’s When the Land Darkens is one Norwegian novel that is bound to attract a great deal of attention, according to VG’s reviewer, Tom Egeland.
Tore Kvæven’s new historical novel set in the Middle Ages is so exceptional, and superbly well written, that VG’s reviewer went back to re-read some chapters several times.
Greenland, Anno 1293
Arni, a teenage boy, joins a walrus hunt in the icy fjords of the Western Settlements. The dramatic hunt is a dangerous one, and one that will have fateful consequences in the years to come.
But the hunt also leads to young Arni meeting the even younger Eir, who will become the love of his life. When the Land Darkens is not a romantic novel, but it has romance. Neither is it a crime novel, although there are many characters who fall victim to axes or swords. It is thrilling, but does not belong to the thriller genre.
As a historical novel, the book paints a strong and credible picture of the toughness of life in Greenland during the Middle Ages. At the same time, it portrays a group of people intimately and warmly, to such an extent that readers see an entire parade of characters as large as life, and filled with all the contradictions that shape each and every one of us.
A playful novel
Summarising the plot is no straightforward task, as the novel follows life’s events – great and small – from day to day and from year to year. It encompasses everything from making soup from fish bones to bloody battles between clans, or furious rivals fighting to win a woman’s favour.
Central backdrops to the plot include the friction between the belief in the old Norse gods, on the one hand, and ‘the White Christ’ on the other, as well as the antagonism between the settlers and the indigenous Greenlandic Inuit, whom the Norse called skrælingjar.
This is a playful novel. Not only to we follow the thoughts of the main characters; the author also gives expression to the inner lives of walruses and sharks, birds and animals. A bold move, certainly, but as a reader I found these parts believable, whether it was the thoughts of a swimming polar bear or of a shark wondering whether the bear might make a decent meal.
Re-read several times
Even the Greenlandic landscape—icebergs and glaciers, mountains and fjords, wind and rain—is afforded its own, distinct voice.
I was so impressed with the chapters about a dramatic shipwreck, and the further journey of the ship’s mast fish—the piece of timber supporting the mast—that I had to re-read them several times.
Kvæven has carried out some formidable research. There is not a thing he does not know about cooking techniques, clothing, animal life, weapons, boat construction, hunting or fishing techniques almost a thousand years ago in Greenland.
The author’s use of language has a value all of its own, melodious and lyrical. The language and the plot are woven together into a whole.
… literary playfulness and psychological depth that have impressed me enormously.
Reviewed by Tom Egeland for VG, 27 February 2018