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April 2021

On the Edge: Writing from Iceland

Image: Hallgerður Hallgrímsdóttir, Untitled, from the series The Light of Day, 2011.

This month we present fiction and poetry from Iceland, a nation on the precipice of devastating and irreversible natural loss. The writers appearing here address not only the climate crisis but also family dynamics, intimate partnerships, shattered ideals, and thwarted hopes, providing a revealing portrait of a country in a time of global and local upheaval. Thórdís Helgadóttir creates an island community with an undertow of menace. Fríða Ísberg tests the limits of homebound ambition, while Steinunn G. Helgadóttir dispatches naive aid workers to a Greek refugee camp. Poets Bergrún Anna Hallsteinsdóttir and Haukur Ingvarsson consider the connection between humans and the natural world. And in tales of intimate relationships, Eva Rún Snorradóttir’s lesbian couple meets with mansplaining at every turn; Björn Halldórsson follows an abandoned husband seeking his happily married brother’s counsel; and Thora Hjórleifsdóttir monitors a dream romance turning ominous. Guest editor Larissa Kyzer contributes several translations and an illuminating introduction.       

On the Periphery: New Writing from Iceland

The scope of the topics explored in this issue is, therefore, necessarily broad without being comprehensive.

The Sea Gives Us Children

Karen says she’s seen it when the souls begin their perambulations.


At Journey’s End

This last shift, the boats came in all night and we ran out of everything.

It’s difficult to calculate the influence of the missus of the night

it’s difficult to appraise the unseeable

Blue Days

That same month, she realizes that she’s never going to stop striving as long as she’s in Reykjavik.


the glacier is black / polar bears run on hot sand

The Husband and His Brother

When Böddi came back to Iceland a month later, he was engaged.


In Human-Made Society

In order to get a visa, they had to explain to him how two women went about having sex.


He gets irritated, even seems hurt, if I put on makeup, and he asks accusingly, “Who are you doing that for?”


Book Reviews

Najwan Darwish’s Poems Turn Self-Doubt into Inner Resolve in “Exhausted on the Cross”

Reviewed by Kevin Blankinship

A feeling of resignation haunts the verses of this celebrated Palestinian writer, but weariness becomes an improbable source of strength in his work.

Dorthe Nors’ Stories Are Short, Concise, and Mysterious. Why Do They Also Feel so Weirdly Intimate?

Reviewed by Benjamin Woodard

"Wild Swims," a new collection by the Danish writer, showcases her ability to use narrative blank spots and unresolved situations as devices to lure readers into her work.

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