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Clearing Out

A Novel

2019
Author:

Helene Uri
Translated by Barbara Sjoholm

Clearing Out

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

Inspired by Helene Uri’s own journey into her family’s ancestry, Clearing Out is an emotionally resonant novel by one of Norway’s most celebrated authors. In its depiction of the forgotten and the fiercely held memories among the (sjø) 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.

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.

Clearing Out

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 oss. She was awarded Norway’s 2018 Brage Prize, determined annually by the Norwegian Book Prize foundation, and has served as a board member for the Norwegian Language Council and the Norwegian Writers Union and was on the jury of the Nordic Council’s Literature Prize. She is vice president of the Norwegian Academy of Language and Literature and lives in Oslo.

Barbara Sjoholm is an award-winning translator of Norwegian and Danish and the author of many books of fiction and nonfiction. She translated the Sami stories collected by Emilie Demant Hatt in By the Fire: Sami Folktales and Legends (Minnesota, 2019).

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