Blue Salmon Caught in Reykjavík

A blue salmon was caught yesterday in the river Elliðaá, in the Reykjavík area, by amateur fisherman Rögnvaldur Geir Sigurðsson. The fish had garnered attention for its unusual color earlier this summer when it was spotted in the river by fishermen and passersby.

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The Little Book of the Icelanders in the Old Days

A must for any Icelandophile, this book from Alda Sigmundsdóttir is a follow-up to her earlier The Little Book of The Icelanders.

Alda has written several books, both fiction and non-fiction, written for The Guardian and, of course, Iceland Review. She has a large international following on social media, and never holds back when giving her opinion on anything happening in Iceland. Her blog—The Iceland Weather Report—is often the first site I look up when a big Icelandic news story breaks; her frank, open comments provide a lively insight into what is really going on.

The Little Book of the Icelanders in the Old Days is fifty short essays documenting the more peculiar and unusual points of Icelanders past. Ranging from vegetables to vagabonds, superstitions to sheep the essays are bite size and best consumed as quick snacks rather than as a full on meal; the book is perfect to dip in and out of.

Alda has a light style which is chatty and informal. This is mainly a good thing; it makes the book an easy read and saves it from being too dry. However, very occasionally there is a “freaking” or “sounds like a blast” that doesn’t seem entirely necessary and is a little distracting.

Nevertheless, the dark side of Icelandic humor is much present. I love the section on death and the Icelanders no nonsense attitude towards it; “People had no choice but to shut down emotionally and soldier on. And write things like this, which is taken from an actual journal: There is frost outside, yet it is calm. My daughter died last night.”

Her knowledge and erudition shine through, and I’m not sure that this book could have been written by anyone else. Take, for example, the ljúflingar, gentlemen hidden folk who became lovers of mortal women. I’d never heard of such a thing, but Alda reveals this most peculiar of subjects. If you’re wondering, it seems likely that tales of the ljúflingar were made up to avoid punishment for women conceiving children out of wedlock.

I read the e-book version of The Little Book of the Icelanders in the Old Days, which sadly doesn’t have the illustrations that the hard copy has. It’s a shame; I’m told that Megan Herbert provides delightful illustrations that supplement the text wonderfully.

In conclusion, The Little Book of the Icelanders in the Old Days is a neat collection of facts collated by Alda, and presented in her trademark style. It leaves the reader with a better understanding of Iceland and Icelanders in days gone by, and hopefully, a smile or two.

4/5

The Little Book of the Icelanders in the Old Days is available at Eymundsson stores in the Reykjavík area, and also Mál og menning, IÐA and other selected shops as well as on shopicelandic.com. The e-book version is available on Amazon.

Edward Hancox lives in in the United Kingdom with his wife and two small, noisy children but spends as much time as he can in Iceland. Music – especially contemporary Icelandic music – is his other passion. He writes about both subjects for Iceland Review and in his debut book, Iceland, Defrosted. He does not consider himself an expert on anything.

Many Icelanders Receive Phone Scam Calls

Recently many Icelanders have been contacted by individuals calling from abroad and claiming to be working for Microsoft. They claim to be calling to warn their customers of a virus, and direct them to a website where they can download an anti-virus program.

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Rotes Kreuz schickt Helfer nach Sierra Leone

Zwei Gesundheits-Mitarbeiter des Isländischen Roten Kreuzes, Krankenschwester Magna Björk Ólafsdóttir und Psychologin Elín Jónasdóttir, reisen in den nächsten Tagen als Teil einer internationalen Gruppe unter der Schirmherrschaft des Komitees des Internationalen Roten Kreuzes (ICRC) nach Sierra Leone.

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Gnarr!

If given only two words to describe Jón Gnarr’s recent memoir, Gnarr! How I Became the Mayor of a Large City in Iceland and Changed the World, relatable and inspiring would win without a doubt. Jón writes as if he is telling a close friend about his life and his entry into politics and he certainly is likeable. Gnarr! is an easy read and could be finished within a few sittings, however I wanted to savor each chapter.

Most will be familiar with Jón’s entry into politics by creating the ‘joke party’ Best Party in 2009. While not a career politician, but rather a comedian, Jón began to win over Reykjavík voters and was elected mayor after forming a coalition with the Social Democrats. Of course, in typical Jón fashion, he required the leader of the Social Democrats to be familiar with his favorite television show, The Wire, so they would have something to talk about other than politics.

Reading Gnarr! was a breath of fresh air from other political memoirs. Jón’s trademark humor was scattered throughout and I became more and more intrigued with the ideas and plans he and the Best Party proposed. From an outsider’s perspective, it really is a shock the Best Party won. After promising to open a Disneyland in Reykjavík as a solution to unemployment to creating “the ugliest website that a party had ever put on the Internet,” Jón was an unlikely candidate, but much more likeable than the average career politician.

But beneath all the humor and out-of-the-box ideas is a man who is deep and faces the stresses of everyday life just like everyone else. While Gnarr! depicts the fun side of Jón’s time in politics, an entire chapter is dedicated to stress and the difficulties and criticisms he faced. I applaud Jón for discussing this side of his life, for opening up and being honest about the challenges and this only helps to make him more relatable. The underlying theme of Gnarr! is that anyone can enter into politics. In a recent interview with NBC’s Meet the Press Jón said that he hoped that his book would inspire people.

Jón writes how he was considered a difficult child and many doubted he would ever amount to anything but goes on to detail that it’s not necessary to have any special skills to participate in political life. While this part of the book was inspiring, I’m not sure it is necessarily realistic for many other large cities in the world. Jón was already well-known previously for his comedy.

Gnarr! is a strong memoir by an intriguing and hilarious man. It made me appreciate Iceland even more than I had previously. I strongly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in politics and Iceland, and I can assure you, that you will not be disappointed.

5 stars

Gnarr! is out through Melville House and is available for purchase on amazon.com.

The book was published first in German under the name Hören Sie gut zu und wiederholen Sie. Read more about the German edition here.