Skip to content
Elin Anna Labba

The Home of the Drowned

Spring 1942. When Ingá, her mother Ravdná and aunt Ánne return to the summer settlement, they are horrified to discover that their village has been drowned by water, leaving their huts, their belongings and the birches buried in the dark depths. Without any advance notice to the inhabitants, the Company has decided to dam the lake once more in its attempt to expand the hydropower production, and the village will have to rise from the ashes yet again. Modern society is creeping closer with its demand for electricity and comfort, with little consideration for its impact on the natural world.

Thirteen-year-old Ingá is mostly worried about her father’s grave and her beloved aunt’s declining health, while headstrong Rávdná, who is tired of living a makeshift existence and being persecuted by the authorities, decides to build a proper house with four walls and windows, even though she is not allowed. Her actions threaten to isolate them from the rest of the settlement and her inability to see the truth ultimately leads to tragedy. Meanwhile, the water will inexorably be back, safety being such a volatile thing.

Elin Anna Labba, winner of the August Prize for Best Non-fiction, makes her debut as a novelist with The Home of the Drowned: a powerful, haunting portrait of a mother and a daughter, where the menacing water becomes an entity of its own. In this unforgettable Sámi family saga, Labba introduces us to a rebellious mother who finds herself fighting a lonely battle and a pragmatist daughter who wishes to put the past behind her in order to live a life like everyone else.

Elin Anna

About the author

Labba

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…

Read more

About the book

Sold to

Denmark: Gyldendal, Finland: Tammi, France: Payot & Rivages, Germany: S. Fischer, Greece: Gutenberg, Hungary: Gondolat, Italy: Marsilio Editore, Norway: Pax, Poland: Marginesy, Turkey: Medusa, UK & Commonwealth: Harvill Secker, USA (NA rights): University of Minnesota Press

Spring 1942. When Ingá, her mother Ravdná and aunt Ánne return to the summer settlement, they are horrified to discover that their village has been drowned by water, leaving their huts, their belongings and the birches buried in the dark depths. Without any advance notice to the inhabitants, the Company has decided to dam the lake once more in its attempt to expand the hydropower production, and the village will have to rise from the ashes yet again. Modern society is creeping closer with its demand for electricity and comfort, with little consideration for its impact on the natural world.

Thirteen-year-old Ingá is mostly worried about her father’s grave and her beloved aunt’s declining health, while headstrong Rávdná, who is tired of living a makeshift existence and being persecuted by the authorities, decides to build a proper house with four walls and windows, even though she is not allowed. Her actions threaten to isolate them from the rest of the settlement and her inability to see the truth ultimately leads to tragedy. Meanwhile, the water will inexorably be back, safety being such a volatile thing.

Elin Anna Labba, winner of the August Prize for Best Non-fiction, makes her debut as a novelist with The Home of the Drowned: a powerful, haunting portrait of a mother and a daughter, where the menacing water becomes an entity of its own. In this unforgettable Sámi family saga, Labba introduces us to a rebellious mother who finds herself fighting a lonely battle and a pragmatist daughter who wishes to put the past behind her in order to live a life like everyone else.

Reviews

Is The Home of the Drowned a new Aniara: a song for those who are not listening? Sang in a dirty realism that smells of smoke, whitefish, mould, and old wool. Melancholic. As if written in water. And still, such clarity!

Elin Anna Labba, who was awarded the August Prize 2020 for non-fiction book Sirdolaccat, about the forced displacement of the Sámi, makers her fiction debut with novel The Home of the Drowned, about the Sámi villages that were flooded when Sweden became modern during the 20th century and required hydropower for the expanding industry. Villages were dammed, land and homes were submerged. Without notice, compensation, or justification from the authorities. The female trinity – the mother, the daughter, and the holy aunt – deal with the violation and the homelessness in different ways. Resistance, silence, conformity. The anti-hero mother builds an illegal house even though she is a nomad – the sort that should live in a hut and act on other people’s commands. There is a hum of voices in the collective story. The lake speaks in a powerful and pleading voice. The freezing cold and metaphorical water as one of the languages to explain our lives /… / There is a lot to admire in this novel that also spills over every margin. It shows us the cost of compliance and the cost of rebellion, the double punishment that makes people defenceless. At the same time, women’s history, a strained relationship between a mother and a daughter where thoughts and conversations, often in untranslated northern Sámi, remarkably comprehensible, only deepens the intimacy of the text. The middle-aged daughter Ingá, in her battle with forgetfulness and homelessness, probably has a kinship with the women of Ann-Helen Laestadius, Karin Smirnoff and Kerstin Ekman’s novels. Between every line, a sorrow over everything we are losing in the time of climate change. Is The Home of the Drowned a new Aniara: a song for those who are not listening? Sang in a dirty realism that smells of smoke, whitefish, mould, and old wool. Melancholic. As if written in water. And still, such clarity!

Sveriges Television
Elin Anna Labba has written a sinuous, stunning novel – a lamentation that is also rich in razor-sharp, sensual details.
Expressen
It is a mesmerising language, beautiful in a way that is also painful

The characters are meticulously rendered, they are contradictory, lonely, they drain one another and care for another. The reader is brought far inside their emotions and thoughts. The language is sparse, but not harsh. The syntax hasn’t entirely been forced into the ”masters’ language”, there is something melodic in the prosody. Short, incisive sentences are occasionally interspersed with long, shimmering sentences. It is a mesmerising language, beautiful in a way that is also painful. The novel is full of sentences I want to cherish and return to time and time again, because they are exquisite and full of lucid insights /… /  Just like with “Sirdolaccat”, this book will be branded important. It is not only important. It is also marvellous.

Göteborgs-Posten
This may well be one of the strongest novels of the year

… a Sámi women’s epic /… / The Home of the Drowned is a magnificent debut. With an unsentimental and observant approach, Elin Anna Labba portrays not only Rávdná’s harsh life but also Ingá’s joyless upbringing which means a direct step from childhood into adulthood /… / This may well be one of the strongest novels of the year.

Upsala Nya Tidning
Elin Anna Labba has a momentous, almost overwhelming story to manage, but she handles it with a delicacy and dignity that ensures that parts of a sunken world again become visible to us

Elin Anna Labba proved already in her first book that that she had an excellent command of words, and in The Home of the Drowned, she allows this language to blossom like shimmering frost flowers. Her empathy is just as impressive as she closely trails the women through the text and follows their hands’ movements, sees what they see when the light seeps through the smoke hole of their hut, and senses all the smells of everything that is dampened and decomposed. She also traces the objects, the few but important items that create meaning and context through all the moves. To make things concrete becomes a way to carve life into the memory before it disappears /… / Elin Anna Labba has a momentous, almost overwhelming story to manage, but she handles it with a delicacy and dignity that ensures that parts of a sunken world again become visible to us.

Borås Tidning

More titles by Elin Anna Labba

News All News