Remember: nobody on their deathbed ever said: “I wish I’d spent more time online.”
Guðberger Bergsson – Tómas Jónsson, Bestseller
Originally published in 1966, Tómas Jónsson: Bestseller is often seen as having ushered in a new era in Icelandic literature and is sometimes even called “The Icelandic ‘Ulysses’.” Confined to his basement apartment, Tómas Jónsson, a senile, retired bank clerk, sets out to write his autobiography, which he naturally assumes will be a bestseller. What follows is a humorous and at times exhausting barrage of grievances, rants and intertextual wordplay. As Tómas lashes out at anything and everything his diatribes poke fun at the egoist national identity of the “blue-eyed Viking” so readily spouted by the traditional Icelandic blowhard—a character readily familiar as that-drunk-guy-at-the-bar-feeding-clichés-to-the-tourists. What’s particularly scathing is how relevant this fifty-year-old novel is right now, at a time when Icelandic patriotism has reached new heights through a combination of success in the European football championships, fear of immigration and the ever-increasing hype that the Inspired by Iceland campaign unleashed when it first began to echo across the internet. The nation has perhaps never been as much in need of being confronted by its own raging id.
Nanna Árnadóttir – Zombie Iceland
You probably won’t be able to secure yourself a copy of ‘Zombie Iceland’ to prepare for your visit, as it’s only available through a local publisher. However, if you’re in the mood for something a bit different I would recommend making a stop in a Reykjavík bookstore to secure yourself a copy. The Grapevine’s very own Nanna gives you a book that’s partly a zombie novel/survival guide á la Max Brooks and partly a guide to Icelandic culture—the latter being delivered in footnotes that expound upon various Icelandic idiosyncrasies along with delivering the occasional culinary recipe. Accompanied by illustrations by Icelandic cartoonist Hugleikur Dagsson, author of such knee-slappers as ‘Should You be Laughing at This?’ and ‘Is This Supposed to be Funny?’, the book also delivers a playlist of Icelandic music. Each chapter is accompanied with a QR code to retrieve the relevant song, making the book a total entertainment package.
More books: gpv.is/lit.