Last Winter's Snow
Author: Hans M Hirschi
Published: 6th April, 2017
Length: 69,000 words (232 pages) approx.
ISBN: Paperback ISBN: 9781786451217
eBook ISBN: 9781786451224
Genre: LGBT, History, Romance and Relationships, Political
This is the story of Nilas and how he navigates life, trying to reconcile being gay as well as being Sami. Set over several decades, we follow Nilas and his Swedish husband Casper, as they build a life amid the shallows of bigotry, discrimination, and the onset of the AIDS crisis.
Last Winter's Snow portrays recent LGBT history from a Swedish perspective, from the days when being gay was considered a 'mental disorder' to today's modern anti-discrimination legislation and the move toward equality. It's also the story of one couple and the ups and downs of everyday life in the face of changing rules and attitudes toward them and their relationship.
Last, not least, it's a book that celebrates the rich history and culture of the Sami and their land, Sápmi, as well as their ongoing struggle to achieve recognition and win back the right to self-determination over lands they've lived on for thousands of years.
Last Winter's Snow is Hans M Hirschi's first novel set almost entirely in Sweden, but it is the second time (after Fallen Angels of Karnataka) he takes his readers on a journey into the mountainous regions of Scandinavia in one of his acclaimed novels.
Last Winter's Snow is (for me) Hans M Hirschi's best novel to date, not because it is a wonderful love story (which it is), or because the characters are believable (they are), but because it's socially, culturally and politically important.
It's also the one I've enjoyed most, and I've spent quite some time trying to figure out why. I've read a lot of light fantasy as a means of escape, and I still like those kinds of books (and movies), where there is a clear disconnection from reality. It's pure escapism, and it has its place. There's no emotional impact, although that's also true of a lot of contemporary fiction.
Last Winter's Snow is no ordinary contemporary fiction. It's grounded in real cultural history - a history we are in danger of forgetting, and we MUST not forget.
I love the internet. I really do. I love having a camera on my phone, the ability to send letters to people without having to remember to take them to the post box, being able to communicate with my family and friends on a regular (though remote) basis. It's changed our lives for the better in so many ways, but it's not without its limitations and pitfalls. Social network newsfeeds move so fast we lose sight of what happened only moments ago, and we expect everything now-now-now. We choose who to follow, and we choose people like us, skewing our world view. Our photos, once lovingly stuck into hardcover albums and passed on as heirlooms, now exist in virtual folders in 'the cloud'.
Moreover, we lose sight of what happened in the very recent past. In democratic societies, laws are constantly made and remade. The rights we've fought hard to secure are, in fact, never secure. The rapid pace of modern life obscures how hard we fought, and what it was like before - what it could be like again if we don't keep fighting and remain ever vigilant.
This is why books like Last Winter's Snow are so vital. Whilst Nilas and Casper are the product of the author's imagination, their story is a reality that is lived by many. It is a love story - of two men, and of Sápmi - but it is so much more. It is a document of historical significance, a permanent record to survive these transient times.