Christmas is coming, so here are two more English-translated Icelandic books that we’d recommend as a gift for the Icelandophile in your life.
Ragna Sigurðardóttir – The Perfect Landscape
A young art historian named Hanna returns to Iceland and takes up a position at a small gallery in Reykjavík. The city feels unfamiliar to her. It is the height of the “góðæri,” Iceland’s roaring noughts, when the country’s go-getter robber-barons could do no wrong—before the financial crash of 2007 and its decade long hangover. Her arrival at the gallery coincides with the appearance of a previously unknown landscape painting by a famous 20th century Icelandic artist. It is quite the coup for a small gallery, but Hanna doubts the authenticity of the mysterious work. However, at a tumultuous time when works of art are valued by their investment worth rather than artistic merit, no one is eager to ask too many questions. This light-hearted mystery novel delves into the murky world of art forgeries and carries an undertone that questions some of the ethics and insecurities of the art world itself— a world which the author, herself a painter and art critic, knows all too well.
Halldór Laxness – The Atom Station
Published in 1948, ‘The Atom Station’ is sometimes referred to as “the first Reykjavík novel,” as at the time Icelandic fiction mostly revolved around halcyon depictions of the Icelandic countryside. In fact, this idealism is not so far off—through the eyes of Ugla, a country girl who has recently arrived in the city, we are given a distinctly pessimistic view of the city’s recently urbanized inhabitants. Packed with local politicians, artists and entrepreneurs, ‘The Atom Station’ landed Laxness in hot water for its distinct socialist message and unfavorable depictions of Reykjavík bigwigs. Though it doesn’t stand with Laxness’s greatest works, its saving grace is the proto-feminist character of Ugla, whose sharp tongue and no-nonsense outlook provide merriment as well as social criticism of Reykjavík’s pompous townies and politicians.
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