The last section of An African in Greenland is titled “A True Greenlander,” but what a Greenlander is, well, that’s not easy to say.

 

In this final chapter, Robert Mattaaq — a native Greenlander and village elder at 63 —  tells author Tété-Michel Kpomassie the story of the souls of names. They sit inside Robert’s turf and stone hut, a rarity in Greenland by the time Kpomassie gets there, as all similar huts have long been razed and replaced with flimsy Scandinavian-style wooden houses built by the colonizing Danish. When a man dies, Robert explains, all his different souls leave the body through his mouth — all except for one troublemaking soul, the ateqata, the soul of the dead man’s name. This soul of the name clings desperately to the corpse wanting only one thing: to live again in… More…

“If you were going to be in the country another day I’d have arranged a press conference,” said the Information Minister. We were to depart the next morning — anyone not from Sudan was advised to leave by then. “After that,” an Australian minesweeper told us, “you are on your own.” Perhaps he was trying to scare me, but I had noticed that our hotel, full of drunken ex-pats only the night before, was steadily clearing out.

 

We sat side-by-side on leather couches in the VIP room of the Juba Airport, as Riek Machar, vice president of the government of South Sudan, confessed that translating Nuer poetry into English had been a dream of his. Now he was accepting a book of Nuer poetry given to him by my companion, the American poet and novelist Terese Svoboda. She had… More…