Itunes Comes to Iceland

ipodtouchApple has opened an “iOS App Store” and a “Mac App Store” in Iceland, in addition to 32 other countries. Icelandic residents are able to buy access to the iTunes music website through the “App Store.”

Continue reading

Sex Crime Unit Understaffed

districtcourtnvestigators working for the state’s Sex Crime Unit take approximately 112 days to investigate sex crimes; in 2008 District Attorney Valtýr Sigurdsson declared the unit would not take more than 60 days to investigate individual sexual offenses unless further data from specialists is required.

Continue reading

From Fierce Man-Eaters to Peaceful Nature-Lovers: Trolls – Philosophy and Wisdom

One of my favorite books as a child was A Giant Love Story by celebrated Icelandic children’s author Gudrún Helgadóttir and British-born illustrator and author Brian Pilkington.

Published in 1981, it must have been one of the first, if not the first, book on trolls that Pilkington illustrated. Given that Trolls – Philosophy and Wisdom is his tenth, he obviously fell in love with the subject.

In Icelandic folk stories trolls are mean creatures who eat humans and therefore kidnap them and want to keep them captive. But they are also clumsy and stupid and usually end up exposing themselves to sunlight, which turns them to stone.

Which explains why there are so many “trolls” in the Icelandic landscape. The famous rock formation Reynisdrangar off Vík in south Iceland, for example, was created when two trolls tried to tow a three-masted ship to land but failed to reach the shore before sunrise, or so legend has it.

Based on elements from the folk stories, A Giant Love Story offers a different view on trolls, featuring them as emotional beings who are capable of love and care deeply for their children.

Pilkington has adopted and evolved that image of trolls until they’ve become almost the opposite of how folk stories portray them. To him they are wise and peaceful beings who look after and live in harmony with nature but hide from humans, whom they despise.

In the preface to his latest book, Pilkington even—presumably tongue-in-cheek—speculates about a supernatural connection with trolls, hinting that they have chosen him to tell their story.

In essence, Trolls – Philosophy and Wisdom is a collection of paintings made in Pilkington’s spare time. He explains that he just starts doodling and soon enough a troll is staring back at him from the page and each image inspires a word or phrase of wisdom.

The trolls are male and female, young and old, wear decorated clothing and accessories, enjoy nature and cuddling in their cozy caves. Some have horns, others warts and none are exactly pretty but there is something beautiful about Pilkington’s imagination.

As in all his illustrations, the lines are soft and the colors warm and I especially like the paintings which feature actual locations in Iceland, such as Snaefellsjökull glacier in the west and Dyrhólaey promontory in the south.

I’m not as fond of all the accompanying text which reflects Pilkington’s love for nature and his view of the world, maybe even contempt for mankind?

For example: “Trolls’ advice to humans: The best possible thing you can do for your children is to have fewer of them.” I’m not sure what he’s implying. The world is overpopulated and humans are destroying it so we should all stop procreating?

Other texts are a little too straightforward and sound too propagandish for my taste, even though I agree, such as: “It’s a good world, a beautiful planet. Let’s look after it.”

However, in many cases, the text is original and witty and, in my interpretation, suits the character of trolls better, like: “It’s hard to insult a troll; they are very thick-skinned” and, below a picture of a troll organizing rocks on a giant plain: “Rearranging nature aesthetically. The reason why Iceland is so pleasing on the eye.”

There’s especially one piece of troll advice that I’d like to take to heart, and actually do practice whenever I get the chance: “Get up late, go to bed early, take lots of naps in between.” Maybe I have a little of the troll spirit in me?

Overall, I liked the book, as I like all books by Pilkington that I’ve read, although I prefer his books that include longer stories. My favorites are the aforementioned love story and another children’s book he co-authored with Steinar Berg.

After finishing his latest book, Pilkington left me more curious about his trolls than before I started reading. What do they eat if they don’t eat humans? His paintings show them out and about in broad daylight. Doesn’t the sun prove any hazard to them?

Maybe there will be a more elaborate follow-up?

But for those interested in short and mostly meaningful anecdotes and adorable paintings of trolls and Icelandic nature, Trolls – Philosophy and Wisdom is definitely recommendable.

stars30

Published by Mál og menning/Forlagid in Reykjavík in 2011, the book is available in the webstore of Forlagid and in Icelandic book stores. Email [email protected] if you have any questions.

Eygló Svala Arnarsdóttir

River of Evil Running Through Little Iceland

As a first time reader of Arnaldur Indridason, and somewhat prejudiced in my disposition to crime novels, I was not quite sure what to expect from Outrage.

However, Indridason managed to catch me by surprise; the combination of an intricate plot, the author’s own presence in the novel, and an understanding of Icelandic reality, both its cons and pros, compelled me to finish the novel.

Outrage is the ninth book in the Detective Erlendur series and this time the protagonist is Elínborg, a seasoned detective who is also a mother and a wife. She investigates a brutal murder and during the investigation battles with the hidden ugliness of human nature visible only to few as well as her own guilt pertaining to parental neglect.

One of my arguments against writing crime novels set in Iceland has been that there is simply no basis to believe such brutality occurs within the confinements of our little island; that the writing itself is almost wishful thinking, a way to place Reykjavík on a platform with American cities where detectives do investigate brutal murders. However, Indridason proved me wrong in Outrage, starting with the plot.

The plot is sparked by a simple event, a murder of a young man living in Reykjavík city. The plot explores the initial impressions of Elínborg, to more questionable details of lifestyle choices leading to a full exposure of a much darker world, so far from our imagination yet perhaps too easy to stumble into.

The notions of guilt and innocence enter into a battle zone where the undeserving experience guilt and the question of rightful punishment for the deserving are ever-present in the characters and their conflictions.

Then there’s the author’s presence in the novel. Like E.M. Forster in Howards End, a slight voice belonging to the author climbs to the surface occasionally revealing social criticism of the Icelandic legal system, a voice seemingly belonging to a character but one that seems to possess them for a second and say the unspoken in straightforward manner. However, the intervention of the author’s voice is not necessary to the storyline as the story itself leaves the reader fatigued by the brutality of human action against fellow human beings.

Indridason has been published in several languages and it is perhaps the sense of Iceland and the Icelandic reality that intrigues foreign readership to his work.

He captures the intricate details of the Icelandic way of life and of the citizens in Europe’s northernmost capital city, with a glimpse into smaller communities that seem so strange to a city dweller, yet to someone whose childhood was spent in such a place, the familiarity of people’s interaction is prevailing. The story captures the sense of invisible borders between the citizens of this island in the North yet does not discriminate.

The protagonist Elínborg and her thoughts and investigative work are revealed to the reader but little is said about Sigurdur Óli, a disgruntled police officer whose fuse is short, much to Elínborg’s dislike. The presence of Elínborg’s family serves as her shelter from the world yet not a shelter from her inner life.

The storyline is simple yet invites the reader to catch a glimpse of a subplot involving the invisible character Erlendur, a mild introduction to a mystery to be resolved in a later book perhaps.

Outrage is not a masterpiece but succeeds where many crime novels fail: to provoke the reader and surprise with an unforeseen solution to the end.

The original title of OutrageMyrká or “Dark River” is certainly appropriate for the evil running through the plot.

stars35

Published by Vaka-Helgafell Publishing House in 2008, the book is available at www.amazon.com and most Icelandic bookstores.

Júlíana Björnsdóttir

Icelandair Plane Struck by Lightning

icelandair-flugvel_psAn Icelandair plane was struck by lightning when it landed in Paris Charles de Gaulle on Saturday afternoon; the plane landed safely and none of the 150 passengers were injured. Several planes were hit by lightning in France over the weekend.

Continue reading

The Heart of the Community

hveragerdi_070307_21The Eden Greenhouse and Nursery fire marked the end of an era for the community of Hveragerdi in south Iceland; in the last few years somewhere between four to five hundred thousand visitors came to Eden, Icelanders and foreigners alike.

Continue reading

Minute’s Silence For Norway

norway-icelandPrime Minister Jóhanna Sigurdardóttir encourages all Icelandic residents to participate in a minute’s silence to honor the memory of the victims who fell prey to the tragic events of Friday last; the minute of silence is to be at 10 am local time or 12 pm Norwegian time. Prime ministers of the other Nordic countries have encouraged their citizens to do the same.

Continue reading

Schlampenmärsche in Island

laugavegur_bvDie ersten isländischen Druslugöngur (Schlampenmärsche) fanden am Samstag in Reykjavík, Akureyri, Ísarfjördur und Reykjanesbaer statt. Mit Schlampenmärschen, die auch Slutwalks genannt werden, sollen die Vorurteile gegenüber Opfern von sexuellen Übergriffen angeprangert werden.

Continue reading

Fähre Baldur

herjolfur-landeyjahofn_psEin Jahr nach der Eröffnung des Hafens Landeyjarhöfn wird die Fähre Herjólfur ersetzt. Die Fähre Baldur, die bisher den Fjord Breidafjördur befuhr, wird künftig die Passagiere auf die Westmännerinseln transportieren.

Continue reading