Iceland is a famously literary nation, with the capital of Reykjavík being a UNESCO-certified City of Literature. There are a lot of titles on the market, but relatively few make it into English translation. For curious outlanders, here are a few that are worth your attention.
Oddný Eir Ævarsdóttir – Land of Love and Ruins
“I’ve got to create a home of my own. Probably alone.” With this in mind, the narrator of this epistolary novel begins a journey that leads her across Iceland and Europe in search of a balance of privacy and intimacy that she can call home—between a contained and satisfied self and the societal and emotional pressures of a sharing one’s life with other people. Taking the form of a diary, this book exists on the Venn diagram overlap of autobiography and fiction. Oddný Eir has remarked that she was spurred into writing by Heidegger’s comment that language is the house of being and the home that humans dwell in. What follows is an ecological exploration of language, place, and love, passed on with a rakish sense of style and fun.
Þórbergur Þórðarson – The Stones Speak
While Laxness remains widely available in English it is perhaps a testament to the quirkiness of Þórbergur Þórðarson—one of the most prominent and prolific twentieth century Icelandic writers—that his English translations have fallen to the wayside, being either out of print or priced absurdly high on Amazon. I would urge you to use your visit to Iceland to pick up The Stones Speak, a translation in paperback published by local publisher Forlagið. This is the first book in Þórbergur’s bulk of autobiographical writings dealing with his formative years growing up on a farm on the southern coast of Iceland at the brink of the twentieth century. Þórbergur’s love for his natural surroundings and daily life on the farm is captured in obsessive detail with a humorous and at times absurdist essayistic style, and the communicative authorial presence found in all his writing.
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