Icelanders are perhaps not the most romantic people in the world, but underneath our cold exterior, our amorous hearts still beat loudly to the rhythm of our Viking ancestors… or something like that. Icelandic authors have written excellent love stories over the decades, but it’s worth bearing in mind that the Icelandic love story is never simple. Most often there are sheep around, even a deadly virus, and at its worst, an overwhelming futuristic nightmare. With that caveat, here are our favourite Icelandic love stories.
Author: Andri Snær Magnason
Fun fact: Icelandic author, Andri Snær Magnason, saw social media coming miles away. Not only that, he predicted what a degenerated self-promotion meatmarket it would be, and how it would come to rule our lives. His book, LoveStar, detailing all of this was published in 2002 and was a smash hit, not only because it is brilliantly written, but because it combines sci-fi and a love story. The novel is about the couple Sigríður and Indriði and the overwhelming power of the company called LoveStar (*cough*—Facebook) that has conquered the world, restrained love and marketed death. Sound familiar? We know. Read it. Thank us later. VG
Svar við bréfi Helgu / Reply to a Letter from Helga
Author: Bergsveinn Birgisson
Reply to a Letter from Helga is probably the most sophisticated Icelandic erotic love story to date. However, some of these romantic moments happen between the main protagonist, the farmer Bjarni, and one of his sheep. We don’t want to give too much away, but we promise it’s better than you think. The story is about the lost love, and the regrets we have on our deathbeds when we ask ourselves why we didn’t sacrifice everything for love. It’s a short novel, only 106 pages long, but it contains the most explosive narrative about love ever seen in Icelandic literature. It’s also recently been made into a movie! VG
Tímaþjófurinn / The Thief of time
Author: Steinunn Sigurðardóttir
Every good Icelandic love story should begin with a dramatic death, as this one does, where one lover walks off into the frozen night, never to be seen alive again. It only gets stranger from there as author Steinunn Sigurðardóttir weaves an intricate web of love affairs, personal tragedy, and world travel—all while defying a sense of space and time. Written in beautiful poetic language and verse, Steinunn reflects the inner feelings of protagonist Alda Ivarsen who lives a seemingly ageless life beyond the confines of her socially-acceptable existence as a school teacher. EL
Mánasteinn – Drengurinn sem aldrei var / Moonstone – The Boy That Never Was
We weren’t joking when we said Icelandic love stories were complicated, but Moonstone – The Boy That Never Was, takes this to a whole other level. The story is about a young gay man in the midst of the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918 in Iceland. The protagonist is completely rejected by the conservative society of Iceland, not only because he is gay, but also because he’s dealing with learning difficulties. He becomes a prostitute which connects him with an obscure underworld hidden away from polite society. Romantic, right? Well, it’s not like you think. This unique story is an ode to cinema, technology and hope. It’s about the strong need for belonging and the importance of dreaming—portrayed in a steam-punk kind of a way. VG
Author: Halldór Laxness
Hear me out. While on first reading it might not seem like Halldór’s masterpiece has any love in it to speak of, look at it from a different angle and it could be the most significant Icelandic love story of all time. Protagonist Bjartur doesn’t love his wife, his daughter, his colleagues, and he definitely doesn’t love god. But what he does love are his dog and his sheep. By jove does he love those sheep. Let this book remind you that it’s totally ok to put your love ahead of everything else in your life, including the material needs of your family and friends. Ah, romance.
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