Halla Helle, the first novel by Sami poet and activist Niillas Holmberg, will be available in French on February 16th in a gorgeous edition by Editions du Seuil.
Halla Helle, the first novel by Niillas Holmberg, is the first novel published in decades that is written by a Sámi author dealing with Sámi identity and culture. Critically acclaimed in Finland, where it was reviewed as “The Magic Mountain of Sámi culture”, its French rights were acquired by Editions du Seuil, who are releasing the French edition on February 16th with the title “La Femme grenouille“ in a translation by Sébastien Cagnoli.
In Halla Helle, a Finnish man named Samu leaves Southern Finland behind and moves to Sápmi. Something strange and powerful is taking him to Utsjoki: Elle Hallala, the best-known Sámi person in Finland, known by her artist alias Halla Helle. Having abandoned art, Elle withdraws from the world and moves on an arctic mountain to live her life according to her ancestors. She sends Samu her dreams written in poems. Freud and Jung come to Samu’s aid in interpreting Elle’s dreams in order to help her.
Niillas Holmberg (b. 1990) is a Sámi poet, musician, actor, and cultural and environmental activist living in his native Utsjoki in Lapland. He combines spoken word with singing and joik, traditional chanting, and performs his work with various bands. His poetry collection Lest the Weird Become Weirder (Amas amas amasmuvvat, 2014) was awarded the Saami Council’s Prize for Literature and was shortlisted for the Nordic Council Literature Prize. Also his latest collection Underfoot (Juolgevuod¯d¯u, 2019) was nominated for the Nordic Council Literature Prize and has travelled to Estonia and Germany.
Le Seuil is a well-established publishing house, with a publishing history dating back to 1935. Nowadays, it is dedicated to represent as diverse literature as possible: French and translated fiction and nonfiction, thrillers, books on human sciences and philosophy, children’s and YA literature.
If you’re looking for more ways to celebrate the Sámi National Day today, don’t forget about the Literature from Finland podcast episode INDIGENOUS, where Niillas discussed his childhood in the Sámi community, his activism and creative work.