From Iceland — Shelved Books Worth a Second Look

Shelved Books Worth a Second Look

Published August 5, 2005

Páll Ásgeir Ásgeirsson.
Adventure in Iceland. (2005)
The curiously dated front cover looking like something from a 1980s bowling alley, and an odd title are misnomers. Look at the small print and you’ll see this book includes “Driving routes, hiking trails and stopping places in the highland [sic] of Iceland.”
From the cover on you get an interesting dynamic: the book is full of essential information that you really can’t get anywhere else if you’re an English-speaker. Want to know how to get to the large hot springs in the highlands, all there. What about basic advice: translations of all the signs, suggestions on how to find good work roads (if you see powerlines, there is usually a workroad underneath that you can follow), and back history. The care, dedication, and sheer knowledge catalogued in Mr. Ásgeirsson’s book should be commended.
For me, as more of a hiker than a driver, this book was especially helpful, as it allowed for pleasant reading at night, after the hikes. Eccentricities like the design, photo layout, and some of the purple prose inside, somehow make the book a more interesting keepsake.
Marshall Brement.
Three Modern Icelandic Poets: Steinn Steinarr, Jón Úr Vör and Matthías Johannessen. (1985)
An inexpensive and relatively brief hardcover, the translations of the works of Steinn Steinnarr alone justify a purchase. Brement, a much-loved ambassador from the US, was not a poet himself, but his tranlations are modest—which works especially well with the bold but understated Icelandic master Steinn Steinnarr, maybe the Tomas Tranströmer of Iceland. A translation of Time and the Water displays some of the effect of Steinarr’s voice:
The sun,
The sun was with me,
like a thin woman,
in yellow shoes.
At twenty fathoms
my belief and love slept
like a two-colored flower.
And the sun walked
over the unsuspecting flower
in yellow shoes.
Translations of Vör and Johannessen are good to have, but may not be as attractive to a contemporary audience.

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