The Prophets of Eternal Fjord — A Very Long Novel About the European Settlement of Greenland


I was not a huge fan of Kim Leine’s immense historical novel about Greenland and the Europeans who settled there towards the end of the 18th century.  The Prophets of Eternal Fjord has a lot of vivid detail and a plethora of plot lines, and it is probably one of the very few books about Greenland that is available in English translation.  However, reading this book was a major effort and it’s not clear that my time was well spent.  I kept losing interest and putting it down.  Then I would pick it up and give it another go.  I almost always finish the books I start, and this was a real test of that practice, which I may need to reocnsider.

Prophets of Eternal Fjords is extremely long and goes back and forth in time, with some helpful dates to try to keep things straight.  The settings are richly drawn and immediate, with a particular emphasis on filth, reeking odors and catastrophes.   There are a lot of catastrophes.  Morten Falck, the main character is a miserable excuse for a cleric/missionary.  In another book, his utter unfitness for his responsibilities might have been funny, but not here.  Falck has flaws upon flaws and horrendous interactions with most of the people he meets.  He does a lot of damage, but he is in good company as the majority of the book’s characters are also pretty horrendous.  Any characters with redeeming human qualities seemed to get killed off pretty fast.  In fairness, I find long books with unsympathetic main characters to be very tough going, and there are lots of readers who may find this detestable character quite interesting.

I can’t recommend this book, but It did get a number of very good reviews.


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