This week, visiting American sound artist Burke Jam spoke with Icelandic writer Andri Snær Magnason, the mind behind Airwords. An accomplished author, director and an interesting personality, Andri’s idea for the Airwords event was to bring together writers and musicians in a live setting, showcasing another side of the rich creative exchange happening at Airwaves this year.
Hi Andri! So, tell us a little about Airwords…
Airwords is an idea of bringing some literary talents to the Airwaves scene. Iceland has lots of fine writers, some are widely translated so finally there is a chance for us to be understood by the rest of the world. Many have been directly involved with the local musicians, like Sjón for example. So this is an evening with a combination of music, poetry and literature.
What was the mission behind Airwords?
The mission is of course to spread the word! The writers and musicians in Iceland have always had a close relationship. Sjón is one of Björk’s closest collaborators and I have worked with Valgeir Sigurðsson, múm and Eivör Pálsdóttir. I think we just wanted to join the party, and perhaps give a new dimension to the festival.
How did the Airwords night came about?
I had planned a launch party for my book LoveStar in New York last year, on Monday the 29th of October, at the exact moment Sandy hit. I found the last rental car in New York and just barely escaped Manhattan, kind of like Kurt Russell, and on the way I wondered why I was putting myself through all that danger when I could be back home in Iceland – with thousands of highly literate music lovers in town. That crowd should be considered a stranded whale for us writers. I had also recently taken part in a nice evening in the Edinburgh book festival where Elín Ey was also playing. It was a very nice event so I told Grímur at Airwaves about this idea, and he took us in, added some excellent musicians, and here we are.
Who’s playing, and where?
It’s in the Kaldalón hall of Harpa, on the 31st of October. We have Sjón, Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir and Kristín Ómarsdóttir from Iceland. They have all just been published in English and other languages and have been getting great reviews. We have Robert Forster, a legendary musician from Australia, We have Ryan Boudinot, a briliant writer from Seattle, and more music from Elín Ey, Empress Of from the US and Icelandic singer Lay Low. I will also read.
What does Airwaves mean to you personally, and to Airwords?
I think Airwaves is an ideal festival. It’s in the end of October when you should be starting to get a bit down because of the growing darkness, and the snow has not arrived. According to the Danish poet Henrik Norbrandt there are 16 months in the year: “November, December, January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November, November, November, November.” Airwaves fills you up and it lasts through all five Novembers and suddenly it’s Christmas and the darkest days are gone!
What do you have coming out next?
I have a new book coming out at the beginning of November. It’s a story about a magic box that has been created – people can put it together with a hex key and crawl into the box to make unimportant and boring time disappear. You can skip Mondays and Novembers and Februaries, rainy days and boring winters – all those kind of days just pass in an instant. One day some economists predict a very bad year, so people decide to skip the year and the next because things never look better. One day some children escape from their boxes, they roam a city in ruins and find an old lady in a house. She tells them a story about a king that conquered the world and decided to defeat time itself.