In the 1970s, the indigenous Sami people of the Cap of the North (the northwesterly arctic tip of Europe consisting of counties in Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia), and minorities, such as the Swedish Tornedalians, began to mobilise and form organisations. The first literary work written by a Sami woman in a Sami language was published in 1971 and since then, many female authors have followed with works that thematise contradictions between majority and minority cultures. In these works, old Sami myths and oral hand-me-downs are brought to bear in the investigation of a particular female Sami identity. Leading female authors include Rauni Magga Lukkari, Synnøve Persen, Maren Uthaug and Rosa Liksom.
The relationship to the family, the mother, and to womanhood constitute the first of two main themes in the works of Auður Jónsdóttir (b. 1973). The second theme is the relationship between the Western master races and the emerging international working classes in the new millennium. While seemingly unrelated, these two themes have much more in common than one may initially think.
Helle Helle (b. 1965) was awarded a lifetime grant from the Danish Arts Foundation in 2010. The nomination letter stated, that she is “one of Denmark’s foremost interpreters of the middle classes and of the Danish provinces”.
An important theme in Finnish Women’s Literature is the criticism of child-rearing. The idyllic surface is broken, and no family member is exempt. One of the theorists who influenced the new literature is Alice Miller, whose works were translated into Finnish in the 1980s. In the new family tales the mother often turns out to be the exploiter, but a child might equally well be found in the role of the unappeasable tyrant. Standard impressions and interpretations of growing up a girl are twisted and turned, and myths are reinterpreted.Many important women writers in Finland in the 1970s and 1980s concentrate on the eternal existential questions that go with being human. Often, the human being is placed in borderline situations, separate from others, or near to grief and death. The main themes are guilt, identity, frustration, mental breakdowns, and the possibility of changing in one way or another. In the background are problems relating to growing up, living in a marriage, or professional life.
Tales from the Outskirts of Society
The Women Writer’s Group in Ostrobothnia
With her debut collection, Indeni – udenfor (1967; Within – Without), Danish writer Kirsten Thorup succeeded in placing herself from the outset at the centre of the literary arena. Here and in her subsequent collections she explored the positions of alienation, powerlessness, and objectification in a markedly personal voice. With her remarkable novel Baby (1973) it became clear that Kirsten Thorup had something more to say. This novel was a stylised and compact prelude to a comprehensive body of contemporary literature that has made her one of the most widely read authors in Denmark.Kirsten Thorup presents us with an unmerciful and paradoxically loving portrait of the apocalyptic images that constitute contemporary culture.
With her remarkable debut novel Tjärdalen (1953; The Tar Kiln), Sara Lidman laid the ground for a magnificent literary world, to which her oeuvre remained faithful. Her novels are constructed around a multitude of people, united in the village. Usually this village is situated in Norrland, on the outskirts of civilisation, but it has scions in Africa and Vietnam. Its characteristics are poverty and exploitation – but at the same time it is presented as a strangely rich collective.In terms of themes, tough questions of guilt and treason are raised, but they are wrapped in a loving, forgiving narrative, in a continued balancing act between law and grace. At times, Sara Lidman’s main contribution was only partly that of the author. Just as important was the debater, the playwright, and above all the political speaker Sara Lidman. She appears in an unusual combination of being fact-oriented yet in possession of an emotional language, a mixture of the front reporter and the Canticles. Exemplary, loved, and hated.
Vibeke Grønfeldt’s body of work has grown steadily and is now very comprehensive. However, despite the weight, despite the attention and respect surrounding her work, it stands strangely isolated in the literary debate. Just as the author still lives on the small Danish island of her birth, Samsø, so her work similarly insists on remaining on the fringe of culture.
The Cultural Duality of Emigrant Literature