Published January 13, 2011
One year is a long time, especially in Iceland, even though the years leap forward and sometimes there are leap years. It has been an exciting year. The world slowed down and that may be a good thing. Planes came to a halt in the air or could not take off. Airlines counted their losses from volcanoes but the volcanoes were not concerned with airlines. The comedian John Cleese took a taxi from Oslo to Brussels, while comedians won the elections in Reykjavík. They won not because they were adept, but because the other contenders were inept.
The government, which describes itself as ‘socialist’, listens with more interest to the banks’ resolution committees than to the people of their country, and the financial sector owns the government’s mind and heart. Still, it is the nation’s first purely left-wing government, elected in the wake of the greatest riot that this country has seen. The one party that did not come near the debauchery now sits with the debauched mess in its lap.
The elite are acquitted, which is natural since they are well organised. They have institutions such as the World Bank, the IMF, NATO and the EU at their disposal, and compared with those in power, the public is poorly organised.
We are certainly living in an era of change, where everything changes except the economic system. The climate changes, the rivers, the forests, the birds, all of nature. The lives of the lower classes change, the lives of the middle classes change—everything changes except the system, the lives of the upper classes and the elites that surround them.
If we imagine our economy as an orange, then the IMF plans to squeeze a full crate of orange juice out of what is but one orange. In the course of a decade, the IMF plans to fix the economic downturn in such a way that will leave no room for a decent life in the country.
All of this is done in the name of the market. We receive news of the markets, how they are doing. The prognoses are good one day and bad the next. But who has met this market? Has anyone shaken its hand?
Still, a lot of things have happened in our heads. The times are changing. The power of the market rests on a similar idea as the power of the Pope in the middle ages, on holy indulgences that are sometimes called bailouts for banks, but are based on transferring society’s wealth and public assets over to these faceless financial institutions.
If only Martin Luther were to come back and dismantle the legal bureaucracy. The imagination obtains power and returns to reality.
The poet Hannes Sigfússon once proclaimed that the days of the sincere poem were numbered. Everyone evaluates as they see fit, and a poem can be everything at once: forthright, sincere, heartfelt, funny, sad, hopeless, positive. But poems are just poems, and they are neither political platforms nor constitutions, though of course it is possible to create platforms and constitutions based on them. On the other hand, what matters is: a neutral stance is a political stance, and the days of not taking a stand are numbered, because taking a stand is required…
When the Central Bank of Iceland claims not to take a stand and not to get mixed up in the issues, then it is precisely taking a stand and getting mixed up in the issues. Let’s be clear about this, and it is the same when the financial sector suddenly begins to speak of justice when their actions are found to be illegal.
The social vision of crime fiction is usually based on cunningly conceived plots, corruption and crime, and is thus not unlike discussions in our society. Emphasis is laid on the exceptional individual. This was evident in the Madoff case and his fraud racket. He admitted to all the charges, was considered to have worked ‘alone’ and no further investigation took place. Otherwise it would have come to light that he was not alone, but rather part of the global economic system.
It was also evident in the ENRON case and in the expansion of the Icelandic banks. It was the same system. I envision more direct and political literature, and poetry that is informed by old traditions, returns to Futurism and Surrealism. I furthermore believe that the fusion of storytelling, social sciences and economical studies that we have witnessed the world over, as well as the blurred boundaries between philosophy and literature, is a very fertile ground. Storytelling will direct itself against the discourse of those in power and therefore the boundaries of professional literature and fiction will become fluid in the coming years. The old social novel will gain a new frame of reference. Libertarianism distorts all realistic subject matter. Now they will be repossessed. The comical story will flourish. Don Quixote has set off but doe not yet know where he is heading.