Clearing Out

A Novel


Helene Uri
Translated by Barbara Sjoholm


In a masterful blend of fiction and autobiography, a Norwegian novelist sends her character to the far north to learn what she can about their Sami ancestry

"Lyrical, brave, and luminous, Clearing Out offers the overdue translation of a signature Norwegian voice into rapturous English."—Rebecca Dinerstein, author of The Sunlit Night

Inspired by Helene Uri’s own journey into her family’s ancestry, Clearing Out, an emotionally resonant novel by one of Norway’s most celebrated authors, tells two intertwining stories. A novelist, named Helene, is living in Oslo with her husband and children and contemplating her new protagonist, Ellinor Smidt—a language researcher, divorced and in her late thirties, with a doctorate but no steady job.

An unexpected call from a distant relative reveals that Helene’s grandfather, Nicolai Nilsen, was the son of a coastal (sjø) Sami fisherman—something no one in her family ever talked about. Uncertain how to weave this new knowledge into who she believes she is, Helene continues to write her novel, in which her heroine Ellinor travels to Finnmark in the far north to study the dying languages of the Sami families there. What Ellinor finds among the Sami people she meets is a culture little known in her own world; she discovers history richer and more alluring than rumor and a connection charged with mystery and promise. Through her persistence in approaching an elderly Sami activist, and her relationship with a local Sami man, Ellinor confronts a rift that has existed between two families for generations.

Intricate and beautifully constructed, Clearing Out offers a solemn reflection on how identities, like families, are formed and fractured and recovered as stories are told. In its depiction of the forgotten and the fiercely held memories among the Sami of northern Norway, the novel is a powerful statement on what is lost, and what remains in reach, in the character and composition of contemporary life.


Nadia Christensen Prize for translation from the American-Scandinavian Foundation

Helene Uri is a Norwegian novelist whose writing has been translated into more than a dozen languages. She is a trained linguist and the author of thirty books, including Honningtunger and De beste blant ossBy the Fire: Sami Folktales and Legends (Minnesota, 2019).

Lyrical, brave, and luminous, Clearing Out offers the overdue translation of a signature Norwegian voice into rapturous English.

Rebecca Dinerstein, author of The Sunlit Night

I’ve long been fascinated by the culture of the Sami people and the part of the world that Helene Uri explores in her new novel. Beautifully translated, Clearing Out is a well-crafted investigation of the stories we inherit and the stories we create.

Vendela Vida, author of Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name

One of Helene Uri’s most exciting books . . . executed with a living presence and an inquisitiveness that is bound to spellbind.

Hamar Arbeiderblad

Convincing solemnity and stylish simplicity.


Uri draws up an enticing picture of [Northern places] constantly steeped in darkness.