Page 65

Gerdur are known for a lively style and humour, although Gerdur's first young-adult novel, Gardurinn (The Garden) from 2008 is different. The story takes place in two different periods in the history of Reykjavík, in the present and in the time of disease and recession in the beginning of the twentieth century, during the Spanish Flu. Adalsteinn Ásberg has also written poetry for children and taps into the Icelandic nursery rhyme tradition in his books Romsubókin (2005) and Segdu mér og segdu … (2009). Thórarinn Eldjárn's children's poems have been published in several books since 1991 along with illustrations by his sister, Sigrún Eldjárn (b. 1954) and have been extremely popular with children and adults alike. Thórarinn often uses rhyme and traditional metric forms and says that in fact he ‘poestrates' his sister's pictures in their collaborations, rather than that she illustrates his books of poetry. Sigrún is one of Iceland's best-known writers of children's fiction, writing for children of all ages, and usually illustrates her own work. Picture books have been published in increased numbers in recent years, and Áslaug Jónsdóttir (b. 1963) is another popular author who both writes and illustrates. Among her work is a series about the Big Monster and the Small Monster, which she writes with Swedish author Kalle Güettler and the Faeroese author Rakel Helmsdal. This collaboration has resulted in five fantastic children's books that were published simultaneously in all three countries in their respective languages.

Lækjartorg Svava Jakobsdóttir is one of the modernists of Icelandic literature. Her short stories often deal with questions about the self image and freedom of women, as in the story “Kona med spegil” (“A Woman with a Mirror”) from 1967. The woman and her husband's newly made home is supposed to become her sanctuary, to the extent that she plans to lock herself in and throw away the key. The haven she expects is symbolized in a mirror that is put up on her wall – but instead of reflecting her whole self with her perfect garden as a background, the image is distorted. The woman sets out on a bewildering journey to return the mirror, finally getting off the bus at the Lækjartorg terminal. Literature trail

Children and children's fiction in Reykjavík The old farming society took a dim view of Reykjavík and didn't believe it was good for any child to be raised on “the gravel”. But people flocked there and children not only filled the streets and yards, but were also among the working grownups all over town in the first decades of the 20th century. The first children's books in Reykjavík often revolved around the relationships between adults and children, and more and more described the society of children in comparison to the adults that grew up in the country, and often there was a breakdown in communication. The boys' books by Henrik Ottóson and Stefán Jónsson, and girls' books of Ragnheidur Jónsdóttir and Margrét Jónsdóttir mapped out the reality children lived in Reykjavík around the middle of the century. In recent years, authors like Gerdur Kristný have emerged, who use the city's characteristics and history to evoke excitement and interest among young readers. Ragnheidur Gestsdóttir makes rebellious teens take off and seek shelter in the half-built, vacant houses of the economic recession. Thus the city has become both an active and passive participant in the lives of children and teenagers, as described in books by Icelandic children's fiction writers, whom I do not hesitate to call world-class. Dagný Kristjánsdóttir, Dr. Phil., Professor at the University of Iceland

From “A Woman with a Mirror” “As far as I can see, the bus is driving backwards,” she said to the girl, amazed. “You got on at the back, perhaps.” “No ... I don't think so.” “Anyway, you never know which is forwards and which is backwards unless you turn your head around.” And the girl turned her head one hundred and eighty degrees so that the nape of her neck faced forwards and her long hair covered all the three buttons on her red coat and fell onto her hands in her lap. She continued to turn her head in a complete circle until her face returned to the front once more. But on her neck a coil appeared like a twisted thread. “Isn't that difficult?” asked the woman. “It's worse when there comes a double knot in it,” said the girl. “Some people lose their composure completely when they see a double knot and want to cut it immediately.” The girl's friendly answers gave the woman more courage and she now leaned towards her and whispered. “I'm afraid I've got onto the wrong bus.” Translated by Julian Meldon D'Arcy

Summary of Icelandic Literary History


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

Reykjavik City of Literature - Submission