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this is a mixture of my lazy academic reviews and personal moments as a mama going through academia, and it is all my own opinion, and has absolutely no affiliation with anybody else

writings & ramblings

The Diary of Abraham Ulrikab – Hartmut Lutz

From the Publisher: “In August 1880, businessman Adrian Jakobsen convinced eight Inuit men, women, and children from Hebron and Nakvak, Labrador to accompany him to Europe to be “exhibited” in zoos and Völkerschauen (ethnographic shows). Abraham, Maria, Noggasak, Paingo, Sara, Terrianiak, Tobias, and Ulrike agreed, partly for the money and partly out of curiosity to see the wonders of Europe, which they had heard about from Moravian missionaries.

The Inuit arrived in the fall of 1880 and were much talked and written about in the local press. Meanwhile, the Moravian missionaries, who had begged them not to embark on the journey, were busily writing letters and trying to stay in contact with Abraham and his family. By January 1881 all eight Inuit had died of smallpox.”

Personal: This was originally written in Inuit, from what I understand, and translated to German and then to English, with the original Inuit letters being lost. So what is lost in translation? And does this translation into two different languages now mean this is storytelling as opposed to non-fiction? And how does the heritage of those “translating” play into this? How fluent are they in Inuit? So may questions. There is someone who went and re-traced the steps here, and found the remains of the families, and were working on bringing the bones home. This is good.

I did enjoy the story that Abraham presented, even though I was sickened by it – it being the idea that they would have to be in a living zoo. The bravery in going forth and trying something new with his family, no matter his motive, is extraordinary. The fact that they all die is not surprising, but still, awful. In the presentation of his texts, I was  bothered by the fact that the text itself was so “large” in the book, and presented like “images” in an old fashioned photo album. I think this negates the personal power that Abraham had in writing his story, by presenting it as a relic of the past as opposed to personal narrative. I don’t like how they mixed in newspaper clippings and research with the letters – multi layered in a way that distracts from the main messages.

buy the book: The Diary of Abraham Ulrikab

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