Page 58

Thor is one of the most important modernist writers in Iceland, and his work has been translated into numerous languages. His writing is probably the most international fiction of Icelandic literature, but at the same time Thor is one of the greatest masters of the Icelandic language and his work is also innovative with regard to subject matter and form. about growing up in a small fishing village just outside Reykjavík. Childhood and coming-of-age are also common topics in the works of Einar Már Gudmundsson (b. 1954), Pétur Gunnarsson (b. 1947), and Einar Kárason (b. 1955), who has written interesting historical novels as well, one of which is based on Sturlunga Saga. In recent years more writers have tapped into the literary heritage of the golden age, such as Vilborg Davídsdóttir (b. 1965), who has written several novels set in the time of settlement, focusing more often than not on the women of that time. Steinunn Sigurdardóttir (b. 1950), Vigdís Grímsdóttir (b. 1953), and Gyrdir Elíasson (b. 1961) all possess a lyrical style with a tendency for the fantastical, but fantastic and adventurous traits are also apparent in the works of Kristín Ómarsdóttir (b. 1962) and Sjón (b. 1962), who both started out as progressive poets but have in recent years turned towards novel writing. Steinar Bragi (b. 1975) is another writer who has worked with fantasy and dark and mysterious inner worlds, and the same can be said of the aforementioned Gyrdir Elíasson. His topics of choice tend to be the countryside and the past, and the same goes for Jón Kalman Stefánsson (b. 1963), who is one of the few writers who writes almost nothing about the city. His dreamlike and almost nostalgic stories mostly take place in unnamed villages or on farms. Andri Snær Magnason (b. 1973) has made a name for himself in recent years with his fiction and other writings with an emphasis on controversial social and environmental issues. Social criticism is also apparent in the works of Audur Jónsdóttir (b. 1973) and Hallgrímur Helgason (b.1959). Hallgrímur uses his sharp wit to write about the present, which Gudrún Eva Mínervudóttir (b. 1976) has also done, though these two writers have very different styles. Hallgrímur often uses satire, playful humour and puns while Gudrún's style tends to be more introverted, so to say, and many of her books have lyrical and philosophical undertones. Another note-

56

Reykjavik

Even though we can debate the historical value of the treasured medieval literature of the Icelanders, and they have played a huge role in the making of the national identity ever since the days of the independence struggle, their value for the modern writer is indisputable and manifold. To me, who writes historical novels set in the Middle Ages, they are an invaluable source of ideas and inspiration, and documentation of a world view that has disappeared in the sands of time, information about the daily lives of our forefathers and foremothers, about their concerns, religion – pagan and Christian, the importance of the oral tradition, narrative skill and poetry. Fatalism and various attitudes that are reflected in the Sagas seem to be so rooted in us still that quotes from the Sagas have become an intricate part of the nation's language. Icelandic writers have by and large let the heroes of the Sagas be; to meddle with them is almost taboo: as there is nothing more to be said or done to improve them. Those of us who have tapped into this narrative treasure of the golden age have done so with a different approach: drawing out little-known characters and giving them wings or writing into the background of the Sagas. I have written about the Gaelic-Nordic slave girl who has no name in the medieval narratives, though no one questions her existence, and also about the only woman said to have commanded a settlement journey to Iceland in the ninth century, Audur the Deepminded. She was of Norse lineage but sailed to Iceland from the Viking settlement in the British Isles. She does not have her own Saga with a capital S, any more than her fellow women who came with fathers, husbands and sons to the volcanic island up north; short legends are found here and there that only make up ten pages or so in compilation, and yet that is sufficient to describe a magnificent woman and an interesting life story like no other. There is much to be deciphered from the texts themselves, and in fact just as much can be learned from reading between the lines. I'm not only referring to the Icelanders' Sagas, the Bishop's Sagas, and the Eddas, but also to the remarkable Book of Settlements, where the fate of many is told in a few lines, in between genealogical tables and descriptions of the settlement, and call to mind images and stories of the people who risked everything in search of a new home across the open ocean. Vilborg Davídsdóttir, writer

UNESCO City of Literature

Reykjavik City of Literature - Submission  
Reykjavik City of Literature - Submission  

Reykjavik City of Literature - Submission

Advertisement