Nordic Council of Ministers

Nordic Voices
Nordbok’s project ‘Nordic Voices’ is both a book and an exhibition dealing with literature in the Nordic countries, the specific focus being on those languages and literary traditions which recognise no national borders and on the consequent interweaving of language, literature and identity. The exhibition was presented for the first time during the annual World Library and Information Congress (IFLA) held in Oslo from 14. – 18. August 2005.
The aim of the project is to reveal the multiplicity of languages spoken in the Nordic countries and in particular to arouse awareness of the many minority languages.

No less than 200 languages are represented in a region consisting of five countries, three autonomous areas and a vast region stretching across national borders which is the home of the Sami, an indigenous people with special rights.

The Language situation in the Nordic Countries
The indigenous languages of the Nordic countries belong to three separate, unrelated language families:

  1. The Germanic family: Danish, Faroese, Icelandic, Norwegian and Swedish
  2. The Uralic family: Finnish and Sami (both divided into several dialects or separate languages)
  3. The Inuit family: Greenlandic.

Sami, Finnish (in Sweden), Romani chîb, Kveeni, Meänkieli and Yiddish have minority language status in one or more of the Nordic countries. This means that speakers of these languages have certain rights to use and receive education in their language.

Other languages: As well as the indigenous languages and minority languages, around 200 non-Nordic languages – from all over the world – are spoken in the Nordic countries.

The book and the exhibition
‘Nordic Voices’ looks at language and literature from a multicultural perspective with particular focus on indigenous peoples and minorities. The exhibition presents twelve authors who are all part of this multiplicity.Many of these writers and the articles in the book emphasise how important language is for identity. At the exhibition one can listen to some of these ‘hidden’ languages; Yiddish, Greenlandic, Faroese, Kveeni, Sami, Romani, Sweden-Finnish and Meänkieli.

The book Nordic Voices is a collection of articles about Nordic literature. The common framework of the collection is literature that is either written by or is concerned with the minority groups within the Nordic countries. It consists of ten different articles giving an introduction to the multicultural ‘Norden’ and the literature written by indigenous people, the national minorities and people with an immigrant background. The articles tell us that ‘Nordic’ represents more than the Scandinavian languages, cultures and perspectives. The indigenous groups, the national minorities and the multicultural population of the Nordic countries represent a great diversity, and the literature mentioned in the collection can by no means be labelled as one distinct kind of literature. As discussed in several of the articles, the terms ‘minority literature’ or ‘immigrant literature’ might be unfortunate labels that contribute to drawing a dividing line between ‘majority’ and ‘minority’ literature.

However, the Nordic literary landscape is wider than many of us are aware of and there are voices that are seldom heard in Nordic literary contexts. The idea of Nordic Voices is simply to introduce the reader to a few of the literary voices, minority languages and cultures of the Nordic region.

The project is the result of cooperation between the Nordic Literature and Library Committee (Nordbok), the Nordic Museum Committee and Nordiska museet in Stockholm.

After the IFLA Congress in Oslo and the Gothenburg Book Fair (September 2005) the exhibition will be presented at Nordiska Museet in Stockholm from 11. November 2005 to 17. April 2006. Finally we hope that it will also be possible to show the exhibition in other Nordic cities.

The book Nordic Voices is available free of charge and will be distributed throughout the exhibition periods. It can also be ordered from the Nordbok secretariat in Oslo, nb AT nordbok.org Translated by Eric Deverill

director, Nordbok.