From Iceland — Ungoo


Published July 21, 2014

Part VI: Cluck Around the Clock

Haukur Már Helgason
Photo by

Part VI: Cluck Around the Clock

[Continued from Ungoo: Part V]

Radio program Víðsjá, run by state broadcaster RÚV, is in fact a tower within Iceland’s cultural panopticon. Which might serve as a translation for the program’s name. It reports on events and publications, and leaves space for commentary, which at times has been among the best you’ll find: inspired and grounded, informed and enlightening, at times romantic, courageous when needed. Incidentally, if I’m not mistaken, radio host Eiríkur Guðmundsson, often credited for having made the program what it is, was also a student of the aforementioned Matthías Viðar. Notwithstanding repeated downsizing of RÚV programming, the show goes on. If you want to refute this whole article, Víðsjá would be your strongest point in case. For the sake of my argument, if not of brevity, however, I will stick to written media.

What goes around in the guise of commentary and debate in most news-media is, in the long-lasting aftermath of 2008, to some extent, a predictable blame-game. Some other pages are then filled with deliberations on how best to monetize this and that. Nightlife. Music. Mountains, glaciers and rivers, of course, that photogenic part of nature which at least some Icelanders, sometimes seems to mistake for themselves. Perhaps, mainly, those who tend to use the word Nation in their discourse, referring to that narcissistic 19th-century phantom of a concept. As far as these pages are concerned, the country seems, at times, hostage to its own marketing efforts. At the opposite end of the spectrum, various biannual or quarterly specialist periodicals remain in publication, focused on such topics as history, philosophy, literature and more. They are not, however, supposed to reach the public at large. Nor do they always seem to reach each other, but respectfully mind, each, their own business.

There’s more —of course there’s more. In this short overview, I do not really account for the medium you are currently reading, the Reykjavík Grapevine, restricting myself to Icelandic-language media. This is somewhat unfair, as the Grapevine has at times been a vital source of commentary, if not debate. As long as Icelandic is Iceland’s actual and official language, however, expansion or contraction of thought, as a common endeavour, also happens mainly in that language. Meaning, that whatever is published in the Grapevine or other foreign-speaking media, still awaits translation, published or private, before it fully enters the local circulation of ideas.

Mainly, however, the Internet is there, wide-open. In recent years, various websites have appeared, explicitly intended to harbor debates for grown-ups, or at least those young adults who bother. was one example of such a site, run by volunteering students and young scholars. It looked promising as it hit a streak of interesting articles, but has since dwindled. If it still exists, it is in any case not very present. The more influential and sometimes longer-lasting sites for cultural critique tend to be single-topic or theme-based ones such as for feminism, the late Aftaka for anarchism, Druslubækur og doðrantar for female authors, and for theatre.

[To be continued …]
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