Published July 27, 2017
Feel like running away from work and reading a book under a tree? We feel you, tbh. Here are some English-translated Icelandic books you could choose.
Andri Snær Magnason – Story of the Blue Planet
This deceptively simple book comes bearing a great message of environmentalism and global empathy. It should be a delight to read to children due to its straightforward yet whimsical narration and its many illustrations. Life on the blue planet among the ageless wild children is simple and happy. That is, until the arrival of Jolly Goodday and his rocket. He sets out to improve the children’s lives, attending to their every need to bring their existence closer to “perfection”. When two of the children, Hulda and Brimir, set out on a journey to the other side of the planet, they learn the true cost of all this perfection. ‘The Story of the Blue Planet’ won the Icelandic Literature Prize in 1999—making it the first children’s book to receive the prize—and it’s as relevant to the way we lead our lives today as it ever was.
Svava Jakobsdóttir – The Lodger
There is a glorious cruelty to Svava Jakobsdóttir’s stories, one which finds its peak in this novel. A young couple suddenly has their home invaded by a new lodger, who simply walks in and starts rearranging the furniture and making himself at home. Gradually, the protagonist’s husband starts to merge physically with the lodger, becoming a two headed, four-armed being in the home that grows and shrinks in relation to the wife’s confidence. The novel is an obvious criticism of the US military presence in Iceland, but the true timeless strength of the text is how it depicts the frustrations and insecurities of a woman’s role in the household with surreal astuteness. At a time when the surreal has become too casually wielded by writers seeking to give their prose artistic weight, it’s refreshing to look back and see it applied so effectively to evoke the emotions and reactions of the reader.
Read about more Icelandic literature here.