Hirschi, Hans S. “Last Winter’s Snow”, Beaten Track, 2017.
Hans Hirschi introduces us to Nilas and for several decades we are with him as he and his partner and Swedish husband, Casper, build a life while dealing with t bigotry, discrimination, and the onset of the AIDS crisis. We go back in time to when being gay was considered a “mental disorder” and then move forward to the present and today’s newly guaranteed freedoms as the world movies towards equality. While this is one couple’s story, it could also be any of our story. We all try to live good lives.
Nilas and Casper share a beautiful love and no matter what they are always there for each other. They learned to adapt to each other and to society when there was nothing they do about discriminated against as gay men They are two men from different cultures and we are with them when they meet for the first time to the death of Casper and the end of a beautiful marriage.
We read of the gay history of Sweden from the 80’s to 2017 and while at times it was very difficult , the two men kept hope alive as they faced the traumatic events and the struggle for freedom. Hirschi gives us believable and engaging characters who face discrimination and oppression as members of oppressed minority. I had never heard of the
Sami community or their land, Sápmi before I read this. The story begins when Nilas wakes up and finds Casper dead in bed next to him. The rest of the book is in chronological order taking up by his memories of his relationship with Casper, in chronological order. We go back to 1982 when Nilas, a native Sami, goes to study in Stockholm. He knows he’s gay but within his community, he has not really had the opportunity to really understand what that means. He had already told his parents that he was gay and they were shocked but are accepting. He meets Casper, a Swedish student in a bar in Stockholm,
. Casper has not shared his sexuality with his parents even though he was living in a cosmopolitan community. We learn that Casper’s parents are very religious and intolerant of anything other than what they see as the natural order. Their relationship is a microcosm of the gay experience and history in Sweden. The two men are deeply in love with each other and totally exclusive and faithful. However, “they are discriminated against at work and face the AIDS crisis, family hostility, assaults, put downs, incomprehension, insults, frustrations” yet they find people who accept them and love them for who they are.
Nilas is the narrator of the story and he gives us beautiful descriptions of the places that he and Casper visited. He also shares his reflections on “nature, landscape, the importance of tradition, and what makes a place home and a people, our family and our community”. We clearly see here that it takes time and work to learn who we really are and where we belong.