Iceland: Reading List

Hi fellow travelers,

Besides traveling, we love reading. We think that books and stories are a very important part or our travel experiences, as they help us understanding the culture of the country we are going to visit. This is the reason why we will try to give you some suggestions about what to read before, during or after your trips.

Let’s start with what we read while we were preparing our trip to Iceland, of course!

reykjavik nights inridasonArnaldur Indriðason, Reykjavík Nights. Indriðason is a well-known crime fiction writer, he was born in the Icelandic capital in 1961, and his books are now translated in several languages. Reykjavík Nights was published in 2012, and, as all (good) crime fiction novels, will keep you in suspense until the end. In fact, there are two mysteries to get solved: while a homeless man is found drowned, a young woman disappears. The portrait of a cold, violent Reykjavík is the perfect scenario for the plot, offering us a different vision of the city, as desperate lives get lost in alcool and delinquency. Erlendur Sveinnson, the police commissioner that is in charge of the investigation, also has his dark sides. As a reader, you will want to know more about him and his past: you can discover more about him in the other novels written by Indriðason between 1997 and now. Erlendur’s crime stories are now a classic of Nordic police fiction.

letter from helga Bergsveinn Birgisson, Reply to a Letter From Helga. We bought this book at the Paris book fair, as we were preparing our trip to Iceland and the cover of the French edition (by Zulma) looked great. The story is about Bjarni, an aged Icelandic shepherd who is writing a letter to Helga, his lover of a lifetime, the only woman for whom he ever had passionate feelings. Bjarni’s long monologue, besides the central point of his love for Helga, explores the reality that surrounds him: his time is divided into rams farming, fishing, going through long winters. There are some things, in this book, that we may never be able to fully understand: extreme solitude, the fact that you may get to know only a few persons in your whole life, how is winter when snowstorms are so massive that you could hardly leave your home. Getting to know Bjarni through what he is writing in his letter to Helga will help you getting to know outlands Icelanders.

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Jón Kalman Stefánsson, Sumarljós og svo kemur nóttin (litterally: Summer Light and Then Comes the Night). Stefánsson is one of the most famous contemporary Icelandic writers and this is a novel he wrote in 2005. The book is a «story full of other stories»: set in a small Icelandic town, it covers the most emotional events that happened to some inhabitants. The idea behind this novel is that «sometimes, in small places, reality becomes bigger». We are not accustomed to think that a car passing by could be the most remarkable event of the day, but in a little town where there are only 400 human beings, every single detail counts. There is space, of course, for some particularly extravagant characters, my favorite probably being the mailwoman who likes to read every single postcard that passes through her hands and, therefore, knew everything about everyone. If you won’t be able to find this book in your language, don’t worry: Stefánsson more recent books have been translated in English.

the greenhouse

Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir, The GreenhouseAuður Ava Ólafsdóttir is an Icelandic novelist whose first book was published in 1998. Nowadays, she is published in about 15 countries. The book is about Lobbi, a young redhead boy that leaves Iceland after his mother’s death, to follow a passion that they had in common: look after plants and flowers. Among the main characters are the flowers he brings from Iceland to the famous rose garden he had admired since his childhood, a special species of rose, with eight petals. This book is extremely evocative, peaceful and reassuring. Lobbi’s clumsy narrative is rich of anecdotes and memories from his life in Iceland: his mother’s illegible recipe book with the typical cocoa soup, the lava field where her mother’s car crashed, the night spent with Anna in the greenhouse…

If you are a movie person rather than a book person, here are our suggestions:

  • 101 Reykjavík, Baltasar Kormákur, 2000
  • Nói albínói, Dagur Kári, 2003
  • Rams, Grímur Hákonarson, 2015
rams_1
Scene from Rams

Enjoy! And… Eat the road!

 

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