Bjarte Klakegg: NINKOLAI

Cover of "Ninkolai"

Published by Samlaget 2019

A book about gender identity and losing your nearest and dearest
Nikolai identifies himself as a boy, but he was born a girl named Nina. We follow his time spent on his grandparents’ farm after he was deserted by his mother at the age of twelve. His granddad, Johannes, is the only one who wants to see him as Nikolai. It slowly becomes clear that Johannes is becoming sick, and Nikolai has to live through the only one who can see him slowly fading away.

At the same time, Nikolai’s gran, Inger, can’t manage to see Nikolai for the boy he is. She clings onto the idea of Nina and Johannes, struggling with the unsettling idea of losing both of them. Eventually, Nikolai moves to a big city. For the most part so that he might disappear and be able to recreate himself, but perhaps also to find the mother who left him. Repeated flashbacks slowly uncover why Nikolai’s mother left him, and why Nikolai eventually had to follow after her. The wild nature of Western Norway is always present in the background, framing the story, and becoming an object of loss for Nikolai.
Ninkolai is a lyrical novel about gender identity and outsiders, about rejection and love. About what rights people have to decide for themselves who they truly are. About owning your own story, as well as the right to change it.


Bjarte Klakegg (b. 1969) made his literary debut in 2009 with his prose collection, Heliumhjarte (Helium Heart). One paper wrote: “The unique collection, Heliumhjarte, is one of the best fiction debuts this year.” (Weekly newspaper, Dag og Tid). Ninkolai is Klakegg’s first novel.