Berthelsen, Kelly

Writer, poet, interpreter and politician born in Ammassivik (Greenland) in 1967.

Kelly Berthelsen was born in 1967 in Ammassivik, a small fishing village located near Nanortalik, in Greenland.

Son of a fisherman, he was nurtured to love Greenlandic culture and literature: his father read aloud all of the books in the house, and his grandmother told him stories of her youth, as well as Greenlandic tales and legends.

After his secondary education in the Kujataani Ilinniarnertuunngorniarfik school in Qaqortoq, he graduated in 1989, and then studied at Dartmouth College in the United States, and at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks. He studied geography until 1993, and then completed a translation program at the Business School of Aarhus in Denmark.

His work is in two fields, literature and politics, which are intertwined with the same goal: to give a voice to anyone who suffers, particularly Greenlanders.  Since 1996, Kelly Berthelsen has written and published poetry: five collections of poems between 1996 and 2011, including his most recent Arroornartoq / Opløsninsmiddel / Solvent (2011), a trilingual Greenlandic, Danish and English edition. He also writes essays and short stories. His first short story collection, Tarningup ilua. Allallu eqqumiitsullu(2001), translated in Danish in 2002 (En sjæls inderste kammer), was nominated for the 2003 Nordic Council Literature Prize and then translated into French in 2015, under the title Je ferme les yeux pour couvrir l'obscurité. These short stories depict a dark and desperate realism, describing the suffering of Greenlanders torn between colonisation and loss of their national identity. In parallel with writing, Berthelsen's translation training permits him to meet political decision-makers in Greenland: he works in Naalakkersuisut, the Greenlandic government in charge of the administration of the autonomy of Greenland. He was appointed State Secretary for Hans Enoksen, Prime Minister of Greenland between 2002 and 2009, the elected leader of the social democratic Siumut Party. During this work, he witnesses a lack of representation of the Greenlandic people in politics, which motivates him to stand in the elections once Greenland gained its autonomy, participating unsuccessfully in the 2013 and 2014 elections. He was elected to the local council of Kujalleq in 2013 and then entered the Inatsisartut (Government of Greenland) through a party coalition in 2016 until 2018. Berthelsen is a member of the Inuit Ataqatigiit, the Greenlandic socialist and separatist political party that formed a coalition between 2005 and 2009 with the Siumut Party.

Berthelsen now lives in Qaqortoq, near his native village.

This biography is based on the available written material during a collective research carried out during 2018-2021. It is possible that mistakes and facts need to be corrected. If you notice an error, or if you wish to correct something in an author's biography, please write to us at and we will be happy to do so. This is how we will be able to have more precise presentations, and to better promote Inuit culture.


(c) International Laboratory for Research on Images of the North, Winter and the Arctic, Université du Québec à Montréal, 2018-2021, Daniel Chartier and al.