Jørn Riel was born in Denmark in 1931. He went on the Lauge Koch expedition in 1950 and spent the following 16 years in Greenland. There, living on the ice, under the northern lights, he wrote more than 20 books, roughly half his work to date.
Riel dedicated his writings on the Arctic to Paul-Emile Victor, who spent time with the writer on Ella Island, and to Nugarssunguaq, his Greenlandic granddaughter. His work from this period consists, firstly, of his arctic tales series, followed by his short stories. The heroes – or magnificent anti-heroes – of these stories were the last trappers of north-eastern Greenland, boastful misfits, pseudo-writers, near-sighted shooters, pub-going philosophers faced with undrinkable rotguts, or benevolent bad-tempered men, all of whom pined for those who were sorely missed on the ice: women. Riel not only makes us laugh, as his books could make even the saddest person smile, but also offers us a different vision of the world and a new outlook on life.
Today Riel lives in Malaysia and likes to say that he had had enough of the cold and was ready to warm up. But behind this joke lies something deeper: “I love nature when there is enough of it: long stretches of ice in the Arctic and tropical jungles.” For a few months each year, Riel now enjoys such unspoiled nature among the Papuans of Irian Barat in New Guinea who still live in the Stone Age and had never seen a white man prior to Riel.
In 2010, Riel was awarded the Grand Prize of the Danish Academy. His works have been translated into French and are published by Gaïa Editions.
Source (text and images): Gaïa Editions