Eiríkur Örn Norðdahl’s book Illska (“Evil”) has been chosen to be one of Iceland’s entries for the Nordic Council Literature Prize. Eiríkur shares the nomination with novelist Auður Jónsdóttir for her book, Ósjálfrátt (“Unintended”). Illska also bears the honour of having already won the Icelandic Literary Prize in 2012 and The Book Merchant’s Prize. Illska is a 500+ page novel about Agnes Lukauskas, an Icelander of Lithuanian descent, and her love triangle with Ómar Arnarson and Arnór Þórðarson. The story spans decades, through the height of World War 2, to Iceland’s recognition of Lithuania as a sovereign nation in 1991, to Lithuanian criminals trying to establish themselves in Reykjavík in more modern times. Eiríkur has been active as a poet, novelist, translator and critic for about 15 years now, and was one of the founding members of the Nýhil poetry collective. He has also contributed to the Grapevine. Iceland has won the Nordic Council Literature Prize seven times since the prize’s inception in 1962, starting with Að laufferjum og Að brunnum by Ólafur Jóhann Sigurðsson, who won the prize in 1976. The last Icelander to win the award was Gyrðir Elíasson, for his book Milli trjánna, in 2011.
Quarashi is an Icelandic rap group founded in the mid-90s by Sölvi Blöndal, Steinar “Steini” Fjeldsted and Höskuldur “Hössi” Ólafsson (Hössi left the group in early 2003, and was succeeded by Egill “Tiny” Thorarensen). The band recently resurfaced with “Rock On,” their first single after a nine-year hiatus. We spoke with founding members Sölvi and Steini about their history as a band and what thoughts went into making their latest music video. “Switchstance,” 1997 Director: Arnar Jónasson (director of the documentary ‘Rafmögnuð Reykjavík’ (‘Electronica Reykjavík’) Steini: That was the first thing we did, in the way of a song and video. We were just running around. Sölvi: It’s fun, you get to see Reykjavík. The way it was in ‘96. It’s incredible, how much it’s changed. Steini: We were on the back of some pickup truck [standing on the back of a truck as it drives around Reykjavík, giving the illusion that they are, in fact, floating]. Sölvi: Yeah, you can see Hverfisgata and stuff. Steini: Funny story, we were inside a car park on Vesturgata [Vesturgata 7, 101 Reykjavík] in that video. It was the Mecca of skating in Iceland back in the 1990s. Sölvi: Did we do that? Did we go in there? Steini: Yeah. I remember Hössi slamming his head into a concrete pillar. PAAH-CH! Remember? [They both laugh] Steini: Hössi stood up as he rode the truck and MC’d, and then KLUNK! [Sölvi laughs]. I think there’s a piece of that in the video. A major hassle. Sölvi: Heavy funny. Steini: “Cut!” “Catch 22” – Popp í Reykjavík (documentary), 1998 Director: Ágúst Jakobsson Does it bother you at all that in ‘Popp í Reykjavík’ you are caught on film in a, how should I put this… Steini: …strange condition? No skin off my back. Sölvi: Wearing these idiotic KR [a Reykjavík football club] uniforms. Steini: I couldn’t care less. We were “in the groove,” and maybe we… Sölvi: I bailed you out of prison that morning. Steini: He did. The interview was filmed during the day. That morning, he’s on Hverfisgata, bailing me out. What’s the story behind that? Steini: [laughs] I don’t remember. Wasn’t it drunk and disorderly conduct? Sölvi: You were driving drunk. Steini: Driving drunk and acting inappropriately in public. [Both laugh] Steini: I remember when you picked me up—we were on our way to shoot the soccer video… Sölvi had to lend me shoes; I was only wearing one shoe. I have no idea what happened to the other one. And you decided to keep the party going? Because in the film you’re all a bit… Sölvi: A bit fucked? It was all a bit… Steini: We just had a beer and did an interview… Sölvi: It was all a bit absurd, you know… Steini: We had some beer and played some footie. Then, we played a gig later in the evening. Sölvi: That was a legendary gig. Steini: A fucked up gig. Sölvi: There were fifteen people filming us performing “Catch 22.” In the middle
As a British-Icelander working in Moscow from autumn 2013 to early spring this year, I was welcomed into the Icelandic community—which comprises around ten people—with arms wide open. These days Russia is rarely out of the news, and whether that’s for the ongoing crisis in Ukraine or the recent embargo on most of Europe (bar Iceland), the headlines are hardly ever good. As Russia’s reputation goes from bad to worse, I decided to find out just how Icelanders are getting on in the harsh but fascinating capital. “Almost everything I’d heard about Russia before I went was negative,” says Tinna Þórarinsdóttir, who works at the Icelandic Embassy in Moscow. “However, my opinion changed soon after I arrived—the city is really beautiful, full of interesting places and loads of good restaurants. I straight away felt very safe, which was something that I didn’t expect.” Tinna settled in to life in Moscow so well that when she fell pregnant, she decided to give birth there rather than back in Iceland. “Soon after my partner and I came to Moscow, we realised that there was nothing to stop us having a family,” she says. “The health care was fantastic throughout the pregnancy.” Without knowledge of at least the Cyrillic alphabet, getting around Moscow is nigh on impossible, so hats off to Tinna for managing to give birth there. Indeed, competent English speakers are few and far between and English-language signposts are only found in the very centre of the city. Stop the negative presses In the Western press, there seems to be very little good to be said for Russia. Moscow recently came last in travel website TripAdvisor’s annual Cities Survey, earning the title of “worst city in the world for tourists.” Yes, the place is horrifically overpriced, and of course there’s the immense language barrier to overcome. However, such a low ranking seems surprising given that Moscow is a city steeped in culture. “For a history nerd like me, there is history with every step you take,” says Hreinn Pálsson, the deputy chief of mission at the Embassy. Likewise, Steingrímur Árnason, the deputy general manager and chief product officer of Russia’s largest private online media company, Rambler & Co. has come to love the architecture in the city: “It’s a real treat to visit the Moscow metro, where every station has a different concept.” Muscovite Natasha Stolyarova, who has been studying in Reykjavík for two years, is not such a fan: “Because of the sheer size of Moscow, you waste so much time travelling around on public transport. Moscow is also very crowded, so you rarely get to have any time to yourself. In Reykjavík everything is calm and friendly. You don’t have to rush, you don’t get stressed out and you have a lot more time.” Coming from a nation of 320,000, it’s a wonder the Icelanders I spoke to have not felt more overwhelmed in a city of 11 million. Finding some common ground No one moves to Moscow expecting
Fortunately for us, the Holurhraun eruption (discussed here and here) has not produced airplane-choking ash clouds nor led to devastating glacial flooding. There have, however, been continuous plumes of sulphur dioxide wafting through mostly North and East Iceland from the site of the Holuhraun eruption, giving police another reason to cordon off a large swath of Iceland from public access. Not that this hasn’t stopped a few idiots from blithely driving into an eruption site anyway. New forms of natural selection ahoy! Minister of Health Kristján Þór Júlíusson is exploring the legalisation of drugs, going so far as to agree with a recent Global Commission on Drug Policy report that the War on Drugs has failed. Instead, he believes Iceland should emphasise education, prevention and treatment for addicts. Oh, he also wants to extend health coverage to refugees. Kristján proves once again that Iceland’s most conservative politicians are still to the left of most American Democrats. The fun never ends at the Ministry of the Interior. One of the Minister’s former assistants, Gísli Freyr Valdórsson, is now on trial for his part in leaking a memo about asylum seeker Tony Omos to select members of the press. Gísli Freyr’s legal team have been pretty creative when it comes to his defence, arguing at one point that the office cleaning staff at the Ministry might have, for whatever reason, printed the memo themselves and sent it to the press. Sure, that’s possible. Or maybe it was the ghost of a pirate, or maybe Gísli Freyr has an evil twin. Anything’s possible in Legal Town! In lighter news, Sigtryggur Rósmar Eyþórsson has probably become the first Icelander to grace a South Korean postage stamp. The honour comes from winning an international stamp collectors’ competition in Seoul. I bet you didn’t even know stamp collectors compete with each other. Neither did we, but this is the first time an Icelander participated in the event. And he won on the first go. That’s nothing to sneeze at, and Sigtryggur ought to consider buying a lottery ticket. The Progressive Party of Reykjavík seems to be addicted to shooting itself in the foot. Not content with how bad questioning the operating cost of the Peace Tower made them look, they apparently decided to go all-in by crashing a student party. There, Progressive city councilperson Guðfinna Jóhanna Guðmundsdóttir rambled tipsily about the Progressives, before introducing the other city Progressive, Sveinbjörg Birna Sveinbjörnsdóttir, as “the woman against the mosque in Reykjavík,” which she indeed is. Inexplicably, Guðfinna then added, “You can see her in a burka on Laugavegur,” prompting Sveinbjörg to wrap her head and part of her face with a scarf. Oh, hilarious xenophobia. You may have noticed the Icelandic police making international news lately, primarily for being adorable cuddly kitten-lovers with winning smiles. One person who is not smiling is Chaplas Menka. Originally from Liberia and living in Iceland since 2009, Menka was recently stopped by police, taken to the station, and told he was under
We are thrilled to announce that Straumur will host its own Iceland Airwaves off-venue programme at Bíó Paradís, November 5-9. We will have many of our favourite artists perform, including lo-fi indie duo Nolo, who are currently working on their third LP; the ever-so-talented M-band, who released his first album this year; and the hazy newcomer Pretty Please. We are currently in negotiations with other mind-bending acts and we’ll let you know when the results are in. In other news, standard bearers of the domestic disco scene Boogie Trouble just released a new single from their forthcoming and as-yet unnamed debut album. It’s called “Augnablik” (“Blink of an Eye”), and it’s one of the grooviest sonic entities to emerge from this year. “Augnablik” bears many hallmarks of Icelandic pop music from the 70s, and blends a grinding bass thump with chicken scratch guitars and a chorus that attaches itself to your brain like duck tape smeared with superglue. The lead guitar soars and at one point the song explodes into a sensational saxophone solo. Boogie Trouble will be playing Iceland Airwaves and we anticipate great things from their upcoming album. This week we also got the great news that exceptional American indie band Sun Kil Moon will be heading to our shores to play a show at Fríkirkjan on November 28. Singer Mark Kozelek founded Sun Kil Moon in 2002 out of the remains of defunct indie band Red House Painters. The band established itself with the critically acclaimed ‘Ghosts of the Great Highway’ in 2003 and has since released six albums and collaborated with artists such as Will Oldham and Ben Gibbard. Their latest release, ‘Benji,’ has received universal acclaim for Kozelek’s personal and confessional lyrics and impeccable folk-rock songcraft evident in astounding songs like “Ben’s My Friend.” Don’t forget to come enjoy our off-venue programme at downtown Reykjavík’s arthouse cinema. The concerts will be free and we would love to see you there. In the words of the Ramones, “We want the Airwaves.” — Straumur has been active since the summer 2012, with writers Óli Dóri and Davíð Roach documenting the local music scene and helping people discover new music at straum.is. It is associated with the radio show Straumur on X977, which Óli Dóri hosts every Monday evening at 23:00
The follow-up to Björk’s 2011 album ‘Biophilia’ will be co-produced by Brooklyn based Venezuelan artist Arca, reports Pitchfork Media. Arca has previously collaborated with Kanye West on his album Yeezus and FKA Twigs on EP2. Björk’s last album Biophilia has far surpassed the boundaries of a simple studio album and by embracing new technology has found its way into Nordic school curriculums and been the inspiration for a film which recently premiered at Manchester International Festival.