Friday, May 27

Being Inuit: too beautiful, too harsh | Babelia

Salluit, 1,400 souls, is a community located in the northernmost part of the Canadian province of Quebec. Almost all its inhabitants are Inuit. The novel Nirliit, written by Juliana Léveillé-Trudel, it develops at this point on the globe full of contrasts. “Many times I want to cry, but not necessarily because I am sad. It’s just that here everything is too much, too beautiful or too hard ”, says the voice that takes the reins of the narrative at one point.

The medal has two very different faces. There are, of course, the multi-colored twilights, the fauna that touches the soul, the contagious smiles of the residents, the strong community ties. But the harsh everyday conditions also stand out. If Canadian Indigenous Peoples face major hardships and shortages, the Inuit are the most radical case. Some examples: its infant mortality is 12.3 per 1,000 children (4.4 among other Canadians), 45% live in crowded conditions (6% in the rest of the territory), its suicide rate is nine times higher than the national average and its level of education is the lowest in Canada. The country with the highest quality of life in America also has a very dark side.

Juliana Léveillé-Trudel (Montreal, 1985) publicó Nirliit; his first novel, in 2015 under the label of La Peuplade from Québec. The book received rave reviews in Canadian French-speaking media and literary circles, both for its intricate writing and for its approach to such a complex scenario. The work has already been translated into English, Danish and Icelandic. This month it reaches Spanish bookstores thanks to the Sevillian publishing house Barrett, with translation by Iballa López Hernández. Léveillé-Trudel tells EL PAÍS the most pronounced impacts of colonialism on the Inuit, compared to other groups: “They were the last to come into direct contact with the whites. Some missionaries and merchants already had a presence in the area, but not the government. The crash was brutal. His way of life changed in an extremely accelerated way ”. Government policies were not superficial: displacement, compulsory sedentarization, cultural censorship and a series of subsidies that created a vicious circle.

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In Nirliit, a white woman from Montreal addresses Eva, her friend from the Inuit people, with whom she forged a close relationship for years before being killed by her partner and thrown to the bottom of the fjord. “Your body in the water and your spirit everywhere, on the surface of the sea, in the tundra, in that arctic summer sky that never darkens, dance, Eva, dance.” Eva’s body was never found. “They have not found your body, so I keep waiting for your return, I see you walk through the fjord like a Jesus Christ who reaches the North Pole.”

Crimes against women

Between 2011 and 2014, Léveillé-Trudel organized a summer camp, both in Salluit and in other Inuit communities. He also worked on an educational project, in those same coordinates, to fight against school dropouts. In this way, he made the journey north several times, like the killer whales (Nirliit means precisely “orcas” in the Inuktituk language). Léveillé-Trudel says that he was influenced by different books in the writing of his novel. For example, from Kuessipanby Innu writer Naomi Fontaine. He also mentions authors who have recounted their experiences living with these groups, such as Louis Hamelin. Léveillé-Trudel comments on the fabric between reality and fiction in her book: “Eva’s character is inspired by a woman I met at work and who was murdered two years later. The statistics on these crimes against indigenous women are hard in themselves, but it was the first time that I had met the victim. They never found his body. “

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In later pages, the protagonist tells Eva what happened to Elijah, the son of the murdered woman who, as is common in the town, has been a father at an early age and seeks to resist the accumulation of daily problems (alcoholism, drug addiction, unemployment). Some friends of Elijah decide to settle in Montreal, but the metropolis of Quebec shows its most ruthless side towards these young people. Likewise, Léveillé-Trudel recounts the relationships between whites and Inuit, which can go through friction, indifference, mistrust, friendship and romance. The author notes that in this part she relied mainly on notes she took in situ and in stories that circulate in the area; he was spinning them little by little with fictional resources.

In Nirliit there are walks among the rocks, pride in traditional dishes and hunts; too hip hop, junk food and high-speed ATVs. And children are everywhere. “They occupy a central place in the community. The problems are numerous, but many families make an effort to take care of them in the best way, ”he says. The lyrics are not exempt from the current debates regarding cultural appropriation. “I do not think that is the case of Nirliit. I do not claim to be part of the Inuit; nor do I pretend to pass my point of view as his. My narrator is a woman who does not belong to the community and who is aware of her position, her prejudices, her contradictions and her privileges. He tries to forge links with the people of Salluit, he wants to know them more, to get closer. I see to Nirliit like a front door ”, says Léveillé-Trudel.

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Author: Juliana Léveillé-Trudel. Publisher: Barrett, 2020. Format: Softcover (173 pages, 18.50 euros).

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