A Letter From Iceland, pt.2 - The Reykjavik Grapevine

A Letter From Iceland, pt.2

A Letter From Iceland, pt.2

Published July 8, 2009

I resume my pleading to your institute in my own noble and dignified way, using up my very precious time, while history unfolds, carrying with it an offer from your country, a deal, according to which I must pay an obviously inpossible sum for the crimes of a few of my countrymen who usurped loopholes in international laws to exploit your rather credulous and ill-informed public. Thus I am forced to think in many temporal dimensions, given that I shall have to pay and pay till kingdom come, in a far distant future, and that other writers before me have found themselves under parallel circumstances before. I – a writer, a poet – am in a somewhat similar situation to Egill Skallagrímsson, the viking poet I mentioned in a previous part of my letter. Our politicians, earlier preparing to sue your government, now want to close a big deal and send the IceSave bill to me. You might not consider our politicians to be very bright or even very sympathetic. You might even have noticed a rather silly Icelandic campaign with rather dubious white supremist undertones on the website www.indefence.is, a campaign called “We are not terrorists, Mister Brown“. But can you blame me for any of this?
A crime is still a crime, even if some of its victims are stupid creeps. Just because some of my countrymen are morons does not mean that the crème-de-la-crème of Icelandic cultural life are to blame. I refer, rather than to myself, to the sacred concept of literature, so dear to you and me, reaching beyond all borders. Call me eccentric but I’m not stupid. But I grant you the benefit of doubt. Strictly between you and me, dear Sir or Madam, most of our politicians are complete morons with no appreciation of progressive literature at all. But then again so are yours, I presume. In a speech our president declared his intention to sue the British government for the illegal use of terrorist laws that have (with the aid of Icelandic millionares and politicians) ruined Iceland’s economy as well as its good reputation abroad. In this he is right, I believe, although he himself has been called a cheerleader of Icelandic businessmen, and although the Icelandic government was also responsible. I should add that the pots-and-pans kitchen rioting is rather peaceful and would possibly look silly in the eyes of the Greeks. Even so, the old Viking nature of the Icelanders seems to be resurfacing again, perhaps due to being declared terrorists.
I should remind you that the ancient Vikings used sharper things than were used in this kitchen revolution.
Be that as it may, a certain peculiar linguistic turn has taken place in recent months regarding a specific word in the Icelandic language. I refer to the word “útrásarvíkingur”. This recent Icelandic word is rather difficult in translation, but it has been used to refer to Icelandic business tycoons that have made big investments abroad. It includes a certain misuse of the Icelandic Viking tradition, although surely many of the ancient Vikings where plain criminals. Literally it would translate as: Vikings of outvasion (instead of invasion).
In other words, it refers to the 30 individuals who, with the aid of incompetent politicians, fucked our nation and a large portion of the English population to the point where there is now rioting in the streets. This word has lost its meaning by now, as all these Vikings are now fucked themselves, along with the Icelandic currency, the króna, now worthless and waiting to be replaced by the Euro (I shall address the subject in more detail later on). Strange how words can come full circle. Now the talk here in Iceland is that writers are the new útrásarvíkingur. In a sense the word has regained its original meaning: a poet who saves his life abroad by means of literature.
I am one of those Vikings, the word is my sword.
You will perhaps, at this point, be asking yourself how literature can exist with only one reader, as in the case of Egill Skallagrímsson and the King in York. Must not literature reach a wide audience to be considered literature? Is literature not a social act, in its own fashion? Certainly this view can be defended but I maintain that every piece of literature, including my own and Skallagrímsson’s, is directed to only one reader. Every novel has what literary theory calls an implicit reader, or an ideal reader, as James Joyce named it. Every novel, every poem, every short story, is in a way a personal (but yet official) letter to this ideal reader. And given that you are a specialized reader, representing a respected institution, and given the present international circumstances, it is in no way ridiculous to presume that you, Sir or Madam, are this ideal reader. Indeed, if you have not lost your patience and called me “boring” and a “loser” or “completely mad” or even “a greedy, presumptuous opportunist” as, sad to say, some of my envious and less successful colleagues have done in the past (I will spare you the sordid details), you are participating in the birth of a literary text, making it become real, making it literature.
You will by now have grasped that I am asking for a grant for a work of literature. And you will ask yourself: what kind of work is this? The answer will possibly, by now, have become gradually clear to you: this is the work. This letter is the very work of literature for which I am requesting a grant. There is nothing more to it; I pay dearly for every word in this letter, with my heart and my soul, my reputation abroad and my creative strain.
I rest my case and believe strongly that the aesthetic experience of reading my letter has been satisfying on many levels. It has certainly required a vital effort on my behalf. I cannot believe that you and your institute will show me the disrespect (politically, historically, metaphysically and aesthetically) of denying my request. I have contacted my lawyer and we are fully prepared to take legal action against your institute in the unlikely event that you should deny this. I have also contacted a professional hitman in Russia and he is willing to take on a project, should he be given one. Those are normal procedures for a writer who has been declared a terrorist, perhaps correctly so.
Furthermore, I am determined to take the following and more poetic steps: I will chop off my fingers one by one with an axe and mail them to you in an envelope.
One finger at a time.
Each finger will remove corresponding letters from the alphabet on my keyboard. Each finger will be accompanied by a letter, the same as this one, with the appropriate letters removed. Until, if nothing is done, there will be no letters left, only blank pages and literary silence.
In this way you would be responsible for silencing the words of a poet by very bloody means, and I must insist that I am fully serious in my intention of doing this. I am not driven by greed, only by artistic and political passion and a sincere longing for peace, justice, harmony and understanding to reign among nations and literature to flourish.
I await your prompt reply, axe in hand.
My bill is as follows:
Working hours: 18 days (10 hours per day, 59.90 EUR per hour): ….10782 £
Paper, pencils and other material, plus computer maintenance:……….. 500 £
Research expenses: ……………………………………………………………………..723 £
Aesthetic strain bonus ………………………………………………………………….10 £
Alcoholic beverages (i.e. construction material): 27 litres: …………………647 £
Risk bonus (i.e. intellectual risk + risk of reputation loss): …………………….5 £
Restaurant expenses: …………………………………………………………………… 455.90 £
Danger of physical damage ……………………………………………………….100000 £
Total: ……………………………………………………………………………………………113122.90 £

Respectfully,
Skallagrímur Daðason
Writer
Iceland

£

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