Reading is good for you. Everyone knows that. Here are some noteworthy Icelandic translations into English. Good luck and godspeed closing your laptop and muting your phone.
Inside Voices, Outside Light – Sigurður Pálsson
In this collection of poetry, translator Martin S. Regal has gathered a cross section of the works of Sigurður Pálsson, one of Iceland’s foremost modern poets. The selection sheds light on the development of a poet who is still actively writing and whose career has spanned much of the modernism era in Icelandic literature. Sigurður has been hugely influential for the upcoming generation of Icelandic poets and writers due to his guidance and his teachings at the University of Iceland’s Creative Writing department. Regal has done a fantastic job of presenting Sigurður’s poetry within a contextual package. He provides a lengthy introduction to the collection where he gives the reader insight into Icelandic culture and poetic traditions as well as into Sigurður’s life and character, using examples from his bulk of autobiographical writing that is, as of yet, unavailable in English. Furthermore, the poetry itself is presented in a bilingual format, with the Icelandic and English on opposing pages—ideal for those wishing for a deeper understanding of the Icelandic language.
Questions of Travel: William Morris in Iceland – Lavinia Greenlaw
In 1871, William Morris—poet, writer, social activist, textile designer and all around renaissance man—set off for Iceland accompanied by his friend and fellow scholar, the Icelandic linguist and theologian, Eiríkr Magnússon, with whom he would publish several works of translations of the Icelandic Sagas. Morris’s journal entries from this fateful trip, which would deeply influence his work in the latter half of his life, are brimming with humor and enthusiasm for the landscape and the people he meets. However, as with most journals, a major focus of the writing is the scribe’s own psyche and character, providing a clear sense of the man himself through his many ponderings on the nature of travel and his own desires to go abroad. Morris’s journal entries have been previously published but never in as pleasing and concise a presentation as Lavinia Greenlaw’s selection, which is interposed with her own poetic responses to Morris’s prose, as well as an in depth and personal introduction. The book is therefore a composite work between the two authors, set more than a century apart.
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