Published December 6, 2016
Two years ago we printed a close crop of Valgerður Þóroddsdóttir’s face on our cover. Imposed over Vala’s decisive look were the words: “The new face of literature.” A couple years prior, she and Kári Tulinius started Meðgönguljóð, an independent poetry publisher. Despite Iceland’s well-known literary culture, there was nothing quite like it at the time. Meðgönguljóð was crucially positioned to encourage the proliferation of poetry into Iceland’s primed public.
Vala now runs Partus Press, an umbrella company that she formed which includes Meðgönguljóð’s original network. Partus is currently Iceland’s largest publisher of poetry and recently released their first novel. The press’s first English book is slated to come out next year. While we don’t disregard the incredible richness of Iceland’s literary past, it’s also good to keep a firm gaze on the future. That’s why we asked Vala for five writers to watch.
Ásta Fanney Sigurðardóttir
Visual artist, musician, singer, writer, and poet—Ásta is one of those rare multi-talents whose creative drive seems to know no end. She is, deservedly, something of a cult figure in Iceland, and has inspired many monikers—to me, she is the High Priestess of Icelandic Poetry, but she is also the Eliot to my Pound; her first draft of ‘The Waste Land’ is due in my inbox at any moment now.
Jónas Reynir Gunnarsson
Jónas has a certain sensibility and sensitivity which I consider to be a signpost of talent. His cleverness and sense of humour also make him quite versatile as a writer—he’s the kind of person who excels at writing projects of any kind: poetry, prose, comics, scripts for stage and TV, as well as the increasingly important art of the internet quip. I suspect he’ll be hugely influential, but unostentatiously so.
Hands down the best Icelandic prose writer of my generation. Her writing is clean as a bone; chillingly emotionally precise. Both her first book of poetry (‘Unglingar’) and her first novel (‘Að heiman’) were well-executed and well-received. As a writer, she has impeccable taste; there is no excess, she knows exactly what works and what doesn’t. A real pleasure to read.
Elías is a revelation. His approach to language is novel, unbounded, confident. His manoeuvring of Icelandic—which is a very formal language with strict habits of usage—is eye-opening. He’s really blown the lid off of something, I think, ushering in a new era of possibilities for Icelandic poetry.
The Partus Press kids
My last pick has to be my babies—the Partus poets. To keep with the literary icon metaphors which nobody asked for: if I’m Gertrude Stein, in this bunch you’ll find Picasso, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Matisse and the lot of them. If you’re looking for clues as to what’s up-and-coming in Icelandic literature, the Partus roster is the place to look. It’s what we do.