From Iceland — Get Your Read On: The Ambassador & The Good Lover

Get Your Read On: The Ambassador & The Good Lover

Published June 26, 2017

Get Your Read On: The Ambassador & The Good Lover
Björn Halldórsson
Photo by
Alisa Kalyanova

Summer is here. Don’t eat lunch at your desk, go and sit in the park with one of these fine English-translated works of Icelandic literature.

Bragi Ólafsson – The Ambassador
Being a writer in a country that prides itself on having an abnormally high number of writers (per capita, anyway) can lead to a unique type of neurosis. This existential-imposter syndrome is the world of Sturla Jón Jónsson: a middle-aged published poet/building superintendent and long-time sufferer on the front lines of the creative arts. He has only just published a new collection of poetry—one which he hopes to be his last as it is about time that he turns his attention to the more lucrative trade of the novel—when he is accused of having plagiarized the work of his brilliant, long-dead cousin Jónas. Sporting a new expensive frock coat—another attempt at establishing his outward identity as a poet—he escapes his many woes in Reykjavík for a poetry festival in Vilnius, where he is sure to get the recognition he craves, being that he is the de facto Icelandic Ambassador at the festival. However, the absurdities of his interactions only keep escalating, until he has lost far more than just his expensive new coat.

Steinunn Sigurðardóttir – The Good Lover
Karl Ástuson returns to Iceland after many years abroad to discover that he has been sensationalized in the form of the anonymous “good lover” in a new novel by an old flame of his. The discovery really couldn’t have come at a worse time, as he has returned for the specific purposes of reigniting the passion he shared as a young man with a woman he has not spoken to in seventeen years. Caught in the crisis of his exuberant but passionless love life, where he makes sure to guard himself against heartache by any means necessary, he is desperate to feel something again. However, the depiction of him in the novel throws everything into turmoil and he is faced with the need to reexamine his life through the kaleidoscope of women he has known—lovers, mothers, colleagues and friends—who have all left their mark on him in one way or another.

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