Published August 30, 2017
Reading in the park is kind of done for this year it seems. But reading with a cup of coffee next to the radiator is just beginning. Here are some English translations of Icelandic books that you could greet the autumn season with.
Hallgrímur Helgason – 101 Reykjavík
Hlynur is a twenty-something flunky who spends most weekends at his local bar prowling for pointless sexual trysts. He is content with living with his mother in her small apartment in downtown Reykjavík, pissing his days away and never leaving the 10 km radius of the 101 postal code area. However, his simple life is thrown into disarray when his mother suddenly comes out to him as a lesbian, with a new girlfriend in tow. Originally published in 1996, 101 Reykjavík captures the zeitgeist of a time when the downtown area was still filled with dilapidated houses crammed full of artists, odd-balls and slackers, before the overdrive of the Icelandic economy and the financial crash and resulting tourism boom, all of which have had an enormous impact on the current face of Reykjavík.
J.M. Bedell – Hildur, Queen of the Elves
Make no mistake, J.M. Bedell’s retelling of Icelandic folktales might not be best suited for your child’s bedtime reading. These are fairy tales of the old-fashioned guts-and-gore variety, developed through centuries of oral retellings until they were collected by Jón Árnason and other 19th century scholars. The collection also provides a lengthy introduction by Terry Gunnell—the translator of the original texts that Bedell uses—that sets the scene for the atmosphere in which the stories were originally told: during the dark of winter in poorly lit Icelandic turf houses. In her retellings, Bedell has kept all the details and themes of the original texts, but applied her own craft as a storyteller to bringing us scenes full of suspension, character and drama. The collection is handily divided into categories such as “Monsters,” “Hidden Folk,” “Magicians,” “Trolls,” and “Ghosts,” so that you can dive right into what most strikes your fancy.