Last week, the Nordic Council announced the nominations for the 2019 Nordic Council Literature Prize. Two Icelandic authors are nominated this year: Kristín Eiríksdóttir for her novel ‘Elín, ýmislegt’ (‘Elín, miscellaneous’) and Kristín Ómarsdóttir for her poetry collection ‘Kóngulær í sýningargluggum’ (‘Spiders in Display Windows’). In 2018, Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir claimed the prize for her novel ‘Ör’ (‘Hotel Silence’), making her the eighth Icelandic author to receive the prize and the first Icelandic female author to do so.
“I have been so many women,” says the ageing protagonist of ‘Elín, ýmislegt’ (‘Elín, Miscellaneous’) to a young girl, and thinks the girl laughs unnecessarily loudly. Kristín Eiríksdóttir’s novel is about many facets of women’s self-perception. You can give a good impression, create a better impression, or falsify the self-perception you display to the world. In today’s virtual reality, anything is possible. The main character, Elín, is a scenographer who creates bodies and body parts that must be credible. They are worthless unless they have the right look. But reality does not always look like this. A battered female body is a theme that turns up several times in the book, either as a prop or a reality. The main themes of Kristín Eiríksdóttir’s writings are longing for love and understanding and the struggle against isolation, loneliness, abuse, violence and horror. The novel ‘Elín, ýmislegt’ is a clear example of this. We hear a young woman’s powerful voice in an artistic and focused text.
Glass Breasts and The Surreal
In the poems of Kristín Ómarsdóttir, innocence looks like a splat of yoghurt on the wall. The letter under the pillow asks: Are you there? The mirror captures the narrator’s picture as he combs his morning-pink hair, land-dreaming mermaids stick their heads up out of the sea, there are advertisements for glass breasts and the square is captured by the horizon as though with a lasso. Kristín Ómarsdóttir has always challenged the elasticity of language. Her original imagery is surprising and sometimes surreal. When the book ‘Kóngulær í sýningargluggum’ (‘Spiders in Display Windows’) appeared, a well-known Icelandic critic wrote: “Kristín manages to fascinate and to scare, to make you cry and make you happy, all at once.” She masters the form of the novel and play, but it is as a poet that her skills are best expressed, as the book ‘Kóngulær í sýningargluggum’ clearly shows.