One of Iceland’s most celebrated authors, Andri Snær Magnason, has just released an English translation of his book “Bónusljóð”–one of Iceland’s most sold books of poetry. Furthermore, it has also been republished in Italian, German and Icelandic.
The book was first published in 1996 and, as the name suggests, was inspired by the well-known budget supermarket with the smiling pig logo, Bónus.
Stuck in a supermarket
“I was a young poet, and I wanted to be a writer and I was really inspired by the great poets of the world … but I didn’t think I could ever become a poet because I was totally misplaced. I was not hipstering around in Berlin or New York. I was not drinking absinth with the nihilists in Paris,” Andri said.
“I was not shooting elephants in Africa like Hemingway. I was just living very close to [east Reykjavík neighbourhood] Skeifan that is, according to science, one of the ugliest places in Iceland. It’s the biggest parking lot in Iceland.”
The book offers a humorous take on the poet’s analysis of his surroundings and at the same time a social critique on our material society. He wanted to explore what it would mean to turn the ugly, grim surroundings of the shopping cluster Skeifan into poetry.
“I was walking through Skeifan and I thought, what would happen if I could lift this up to a phoetic sphere, because nobody says that Paris is poetic, the poets said it was poetic,” he said. “I looked around the aisles of Bónus and saw that Bónus was divided exactly like the Divine Comedy by Dante. You start in Paradiso–the fruit aisle, you go to Inferno–the meat products, then you end in Purgatorio–the cleaning products.”
I think we can all relate to the following passage from the book:
“I’m a miniature of the world,
I’m a miniature of Bónus”