Omslagsbild: Herrarna satte oss hit

Date of release: 2020-01-28
Pages: 190
Sold to: Norway: Pax, Poland: Marginesy, Spain: Barlin Libros, USA: University of Minnesota Press (World English language rights)
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Herrarna satte oss hit /Sirdolaččat

The Deportation of the Northern Sámi

One hundred years ago, the Swedish and Norwegian governments came to an agreement regarding the nomadic people in the north. The settlement – referred to as a “dislocation” by the authorities – initiated a long period of deportations of reindeer-keeping Northern Sámi from their homes in Norway to new lands in Sweden, and in Finland. In the Sámi language it gives rise to a new word – bággojohtin – forced displacement. Or sirdolaččat, as the older generation call themselves afterwards, meaning “the displaced”. The first ones that are taken away leave their homes in the belief that they will soon return.

Elin Anna Labba has collected stories, photographs, letters and yoik lyrics, that together form a choir of voices echoing through time. The book portrays a hard life: reindeer lost on the way as they run north towards their known lands, children that are left behind with relatives. Sorrow that is stilled, yet lives on in new generations.    



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Labba intersperses testimonials, the frustration over everything that has already been lost, archive photos, joiks, and governmental documents, with her own voice. A voice that conjures up the time when the Sámi had their soul, body, context, reindeer herds – everything – torn away from the land where they were living. And what a voice she has. A while ago I wrote how contemporary Swedish literature will probably never see a new Vilhelm Moberg. But Sápmi has gotten its very own Toni Morrison. Labba writes in the language of the masters, but she makes it feel like it belongs to her and her ancestors, as you are forced to do when even the words have been stolen from your mouth. And like Morrison, she doesn’t do it for vengeance, but as an attempt to heal some of all that have been broken by oppression and despair. Labba reclaims, recreates, restores everything that have been muted by sorrow for far too long. She seamlessly interlaces Sámi notions, and the language flows across the pages like a crystal clear creek. What is so excruciating to read is also so beautiful it’s impossible to stop /… / A big thank you to Norstedts for publishing a book that should be handed out in every school. And Elin Anna Labba must win the August Prize for best non-fiction title this year.
Svenska Dagbladet
In the same way that Nobel laureate Svetlana Aleksievitj uses many voices to tell a panoramic, shared story, Elin Anna Labba allows the personal destinies to become a history that is individually perceived, but also collective and universal. With a lyrical, stark prose she writes, powerfully and urgently, a Sámi Song of Solomon to all of those who were forced to leave their homes and their context. It is a fantastic book – both narratively and linguistically, but also in terms of layout and design, and an indisputable August Prize candidate when the nominations for the best Swedish book of 2020 are revealed.
Folkbladet Västerbotten
Elin Anna Labba was unaware of the full extent of the plight of the forcefully dislocated as she began her writing project, initially a genealogical research that expanded over time. She has conducted her own interviews, and read those conducted by others, listened to recordings, read letters and poems, traced the dislocated in church books and governmental documents in different archives. This fragmentary choir of voices, including her own journey, she has subsequently interspersed with historical data, documentary photographs and facsimiles of official documents. It is a magnificent achievement. /… / Elin Anna Labba also succeeds in visualising the human aspects of history. She has gotten the oldest generation to testify before it is too late, in line with the movement of indigenous people all over the world, reclaiming their past. I read with a knot in my stomach. /… / Despite the book’s heart-rendering content I am enjoying the fact that the material is so elegantly rendered (which also goes for the design). The author sheds light over history, manners and customs, while using distinctive, picturesque descriptions of nature and emotions. /… / Elin Anna Labba has composed a painfully beautiful and important elegy.
Dagens Nyheter
Journalist Elin Anna Labba has written a deeply moving book about this trauma, not only tragically forgotten but basically unknown to anyone besides those concerned; a memorial over those who were severely, undeservingly and forever affected /… / Elin Anna Labba has illustrated her book with profound black and white photos from that time, nature images, mountains and lakes, but also portraying those who suffered this, entire families dressed in their traditional clothing, whose sorrowful glances are still staring back at us, one hundred years later.

Elin Anna Labba is a journalist and was previously the editor-in-chief of magazine Nuorat. Today she works for the Sámi Authors’ Centre, with a mission to strengthen and emphasise Sámi literature.

Elin Anna Labba hails from a family that lived on a land that was seized by the authorities. This is her way to tell her own family’s story.          

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