HD video, 17 minutes
In the summer of 2015, on a travel grant from UKS in Norway, and after about ten months of Greenlandic studies, I had the chance to spend some time in Nuuk, the capital of Greenland. The word “aporfik” in Greenlandic means something like ‘a place in nature where natural obstacles force you to turn around and go home.’ In connection with my studies of the Greenlandic language I had been reading from a Greenlandic translation of Knut Hamsun’s novel ‘Pan’ from 1894. The book is one of the highpoints of Norwegian Neo-Romanticism, and also considered the “greatest declaration of love to the northern landscape” in Norwegian literature. In its descriptions of the main character, lieutenant Glahn, and his wanderings around in the northern Norwegian summer landscape, I was struck by the interpretations and transpositions I find in the Greenlandic version, not only grammatically, but also in its descriptions of natural phenomena, movement through nature, and hunting. On the one hand, the Greenlandic translation is much more accurate and nuanced than the Norwegian original: The Greenlandic language has a whole host of different words describing movement through a specific landscape, climbing, approaching the sea, walking across a field, etc, etc. Words like “here” and “there” vary according to whether you mean “over there by the beach”, “up here on the hill,” etc, etc. Other times, the context is radically different. Hamsun describes the waves hitting an island like a “sea God rising up wet in the storm…” and “diving down into the sea again.” (my translation). Here, the Greenlandic translation uses the word “morsuppoq”, which means “an animal disappears under the surface of the water”, which refers to Inuit seal hunting. Lieutenant Glahn tells someone that the name of his dog is Aesop, and that this is the name of a Greek author of fables. The word “fable” is translated by “inorroortoq”, which means “the metamorphosis of a human being into an animal” and refers to traditional Inuit mythology. On the other hand, there is no real word for “forest” in Greenlandic: “Orpippassuit” literally means “big group of trees”. “Iffiugarsisarfik” – bakery – is “place where one usually buys pastry”. The film contains footage of my walks around Nuuk in Greenland, and on Hamarøy in northern Norway, where Hamsun grew up.