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Articles tagged "Icelandic Literature"

“Land of Love and Ruins” by Oddný Eir

Oddný Eir’s third novel, the semiautobiographical, genre-bending Land of Love and Ruins––expertly translated from the Icelandic by Philip Roughton––opens with the narrator returning home to Reykjavik in the aftermath of a breakup and a midlife crisis, and amid the looming specter of the island’s various economic and environmental concerns. The thirty-something writer and environmental activist records her thoughts daily, and the novel...

Jerking Out of Rotation: Four Icelandic Poets

Given that its language is spoken by fewer than 350,000 people across the world, Iceland manages to publish an astonishing volume of poetry, reflecting the country’s nearly 100 percent literacy rate. In this modest cross-section of emerging, feminist/queer, and seasoned poets, some of the recurring themes of modern Icelandic poetry begin to emerge: deep reverence for nature and eco-poetics, progressive sexual politics, and the predilection for drawing out the capaciousness of the...

Fragments from the Guidebook of the Dead

Fragments from the Guidebook of the Dead                         First daytrip/ Kolafjöll No lemonwood grows here, but those interested should note a pale moonwort inching its way from under the lava rock On the Sunny Side There are planets that have two suns and black plants— even though there are two suns and the plants are the color of night there are...

Mountain Hike

The tallest mountain on Mars is 24 kilometers high and I have climbed it in my dreams. I remember the view from the peak: magnificent; the blue planet swam in the half-twilight of evening. I seem to remember Louis Armstrong was with me, no, Lance Armstrong, no it was Neil Armstrong, I mean. When I awoke I was still in hiking boots caked with red clay, which I scraped off the soles and rolled into a tiny moon.

Another Letter to Mister Brown

Did you never get my letter, Mister Brown? it was aurora pink and glittery and I poured perfume from the tester all over it Mister Brown, “I’m just a girl standing in front of a boy asking him to love me,” do I look like a terrorist? I am not the (hu)man with the wine I’m a completely different (hu)man when I’m drunk I am more (hu)man a stronger and bigger (hu)man when I’m drunk greed, ambition, the crazy jealousy are not characteristics characteristic...

Austurvöllur on the Day of the Wake

Friday. A summer day. The sun shines. Everyone takes off socks and sweaters and jeans. Beautiful girls spread out blankets on the grass. Beautiful girls have a good day, a summer day. When evening falls, they go out and dance until morning and go home with a boy or a girl and wake hungover but happy for the new day, the summer day. The dizzying scent of freshly cut grass. A wriggling blossom in a flower bed. Dolphins leap in the bay. The sun shines. Nothing is missing. Babies smile...

Black Sea

In memory of Jónas Þorbjarnarson (1960-2012)   1. The dark kaiser’s ship, deep-keeled, cuts the water from head to head, breaks and sinks.        * The one who is here to tell us what it means to drown also knows the miracle of lungs filling anew with air when the body shoots up to the surface, treading water, gasping for breath. 2. It seeps into the brain, the black sea:...

Evolution

EVOLUTION (1) Flight of the dwarf wasp, wingspan one millimeter beating 350 times per second finally captured in a photograph. After one million millenia of steadily evolving technology.   EVOLUTION (2) Let me help you said the ape. And placed the fish carefully in the crown of the tree. 

Bus Sequence

Bus I Wednesday arrives and my only thought is that I’m looking forward to taking the bus at noon. I didn’t know there would be days like this—days when the only thing I look forward to is the bus, and the only positive thing I think about myself is that I have clean hair. A new month arrives and I realize that the last month passed in the wish that it would simply pass. One summer I took the bus to work every morning. One day, I realized that the bus route had changed;...

House No. 451

It’s old and dilapidated, with dirty, tattered curtains covering the windows, the roof on the verge of collapse and the antenna dangling from the gable on its wire. There are cracks in all the outside walls and the paint, once white, is now stained brown and flaking off in many places. The garden is a jungle: trees and hedges growing unchecked, moss in the grass on the lawn, dandelions and daisies everywhere, and an ancient swing hanging from a tree. One of its ropes has frayed...

Inferno

We had just moved into an apartment in the suburbs, with all the hassle of fetching and carrying and doing the sorts of things that you really wouldn’t bother with if you didn’t feel socially obliged to. On the seventh day after we had moved in, my wife said we must go to IKEA to buy an armchair that would go better with the sofa than our old one. I didn’t raise any objections, though I could see absolutely nothing wrong with our existing chair. “Remember the...

The Sound Words Have

Once there was a town where no two people spoke the same language. No one used the same words for anything. And yet everyone understood everyone else and they all lived together in peace and harmony. Until recently, the locals were cheerful, cordial, and— though it’s hard to believe—talkative. The town was in a nameless region deep in central Europe. The place had no name because it was so remote that it was usually represented on maps as a black hole. That is, if it was...

solstice

when your eyes pause on the ball that hangs on the third branch from a star you remember why it got dark and why it is getting light again the earth (like the heart) leans back in its seat and like that it travels along an orbit drawn in the darkness unpolished pearl in sky-black palm of hand flickering sun-flame you remember that you yourself are a light-bearer who receives her radiance from others © Sjón. By arrangement with the author. Translation ©...

the stone collector’s song

i remember the thirst and the darkness i remember one-way streets i remember closed alleys and you you pointed to a cellar door there used to be a pub there which we visited a lot here it is you said comfortingly your stone collection it isn’t lost in the shelves behind the bar waits the iceland spar all my stones brimstone – pyrite – opal and jasper – dear friends! none of you have i forgotten and up there on the ceiling hang the...

2093

He lies and dreams. A great ash tree spreads out its crown and girls come with buckets and water its roots. He tosses and turns, then looks up. Beside him sits a gray-haired woman, stroking his hand. The veins stand out like those on a leaf. “You’re as beautiful as ever, Dísa dear,” he says, closing his eyes. They always used to dance in the kitchen. His daughters wet a cloth and wash his feet. He lies still, thinking about Arctic terns. *** I walk into the...

Patriotic Poem

The cold makes me a lair from fear places a pillow of downy drift under my head a blanket of snow to swaddle me in I’d lay my ear to the cracking of the ice in the hope of hearing it retreat if I didn’t know I’d be frozen fast The ice lets no one go My country a spread deathbed my initials stitched on the icy linen “Ættjarðarljóð" © Gerdur Kristný. By arrangement with the author. Translation copyright 2011...

The Chamber Music

Allegretto villereccio This Wednesday in the last week of November is the first winter evening of the season. Until now it hasn’t gotten that cold; instead, it’s rained every which way, and more than once since October I’ve thought of leaving this dreadful southwest corner of the country, of heading somewhere far away, somewhere up in the north, even going to another country, one where there’s a proper winter, like those we pretend we remember from childhood. But...

January 19th

Hildur is seven. She says when people die they lie motionless in a coffin –she shows me how–forever in heaven. She says she’s preparing herself. She says she will pick a very comfortable position. © Sigurbjorg Þrastardottir. By arrangement with the author. Translation © 2011 by T. Zachary Cotler. All rights reserved.

Three Women Poets

Three women poets in white bras sit at a small round table. Book in hand. A man in a pirate sweater comes in through the door out of the snowstorm and sits down at the women’s table. He takes off his sweater. He touches one of them, they are all dead. And won’t come alive again. Though they await his kisses. Then he rises scoops up in his arms the woman he had touched and carries her out. The draft as the door flies open and falls shut leafs...

four creaking wheels

Two middle-aged women, who do the paper-route, drag the cart beside them along the ice-covered sidewalk, silent beneath the hoods of their anoraks. They remind me of passengers hauling their luggage, looking for the exit in a gigantic, deserted airport. Aside from the creaking of the cart, nothing can be heard except the droning of the air-conditioning system at St. Joseph’s Hospital, or perhaps they’re kindling the ovens at the crematorium. It’s been busy since the...

Dessert

As I sit at the dinner table I watch the three men who have sucked at my breasts. One of them still sucks them, two sucked them for a time. I look at the sun pouring through the window and look at the glasses on the table. I look at the three mouths, opening and closing because of the food. I look at the food disappear from the table as the sun moves across the window. I say: You have all sucked at my breasts. While they wipe their mouths with their napkins. They nod and...

The Slayer of Souls

The following tale could well have been told on the one-thousand-and-second night: In the first decade of the nineteenth century there lived in Reykjavík a merchant who sold new and secondhand furniture in a shop he ran on the first floor of a house his wife owned right next to the city lake. He bought some of his furniture in Copenhagen and had it shipped to him in Iceland. His wife’s house stood a stone’s throw away from the City Theater, where plays of both a sad...

Café Borges

In Café Borges on Bankastræti everyone has brown eyes. Here they once sold pantyhose– says Simone–that forked like paths in two, even three. Yes–says Tiziano–lovers fought here until someone laid a sword between them, naked. Fires are burning. In Café Borges on Bankastræti everyone has stubble and a smile. You have the widows and the widowers who slurp soup spiced with Fáfnir’s-grass and add in adages with...

The Story of One Occasion

On one of many occasions Greta Garbo visited her fellow actress Marilyn Monroe in her home town, the City of Angels. Greta, who lived in New York, flew to the West Coast, took a taxi at the airport, and rode home to Marilyn, who welcomed her in her usual fashion, barefoot in a simple dress. She often wore an apron too because she loved baking rolls for Greta, who kindled her passion for rolls. Greta said she had this effect on people; they wanted to bake and feed her all sorts of...
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