Paradise is such an uncompromising word. Through the years – aided by viral headlines, marketing brochures, and proud locals extolling the virtues of their ancestral land – Iceland has acquired a reputation as a utopia. The best place in the world to experience untouched nature, where white-collar criminals get punished for their infractions, and, of course, the best place in the world to be a woman. As with all generalisations, there’s a grain of truth, but it should be taken with a grain of salt. For Eliza Reid, Director of the Iceland Writers Retreat and author of the new book, Secrets of the Sprakkar, gender equality hasn’t been achieved in Iceland. But it’s still a pretty great place to live.
In early January, my colleague and I drove north from Reykjavík toward the northern tip of the Tröllaskagi peninsula. Although Iceland’s dimensions appear sizeable on satellite maps, it takes less than four hours to traverse its length by car; before noon, we turned into Vestur-Fljót, in the Flókadalur valley, and parked in front of a red-and-white house on the farm Syðsti-Mór. The farmstead had been abandoned since 2013 – until 20-year-old Kristófer Orri Hlynsson moved in alone and began farming.
Valdimar Jóhannsson is not a man of many words, preferring a visual medium to express himself. That’s what shaped his whole approach to his first feature film, Lamb. Years in the making, the film premiered last year at the Cannes Film Festival in the Un Certain Regard section, winning the Originality Prize, going on to garner accolades and become a sleeper hit all over the world. At the time of writing, the film is longlisted for a BAFTA nomination, shortlisted for an Oscar nomination, and has become the highest-grossing Icelandic film ever screened in the US. But it all started with a simple sketch outlining a fantastical figure – a new addition to Iceland’s folklore.
Gunnar Birgisson’s journey as an entrepreneur has seen many unexpected detours. As the CEO of Reykjavik Creamery – an American dairy processing plant located in Newville, Pennsylvania – Gunnar’s story spans both continents and conmen, bringing him from Akureyri to Denmark to California in search of a way into the US dairy industry, where he would eventually carve himself a niche specialising in skyr production using ultra-filtration technology – the natural way to optimise the nutritional value of fermented dairy products.
Every New Year’s Eve for a decade, Þóra Hjörleifsdóttir made the resolution to write a book. It took a while, but in 2019, Magma was published – a harrowing story about how a young woman loses herself within the confines of an emotionally abusive relationship affected by the pornification of society.It was published in February, […]
Over the past 18 months, Þórólfur Guðnason has gone from quasi-anonymous medicine man to bona fide historical figure. Along with Director of Health Alma Möller and Director of Civil Protection and Emergency Management Víðir Reynisson, Þórólfur forms the so-called “troika” – the face of the government’s response to COVID-19. He’s Iceland’s Anthony Fauci: the imperturbable voice of reason and restraint. It’s a complicated role predicated mainly on credibility, demanding a certain immaculateness when it comes to personal precautionary measures.
THE PLUMBER For many years, the minimalist composer Philip Glass worked as a plumber. He did this not only before he started composing but also alongside his music work. Once, while installing a dishwasher in a SoHo loft, he glanced up to see the art critic of Time Magazine, Robert Hughes, looking down at him […]
Autumn’s gauze curtain On Sunday, October 3, Hlöðver Hlöðversson stared into a camera in Northeast Iceland. He wore a cream-coloured cap, a grey jacket, and a stern expression. Behind him, there was mist and marshland – only that marshland would not have been an accurate description of the landscape a few days previous. “Is this […]
The Arctic Circle Assembly took place in Harpa last October. Dignitaries from all over the world attended the event, filling up the conference centre with important-looking people in suits, younger people in tighter-fitting suits handing them papers, and slightly-more-dishevelled people with backpacks poring over figures and data with a look of concern.
The doyen at the helm of this event, which even now, when a global pandemic is raging, brings more than 1,500 in-person participants from over 50 countries to Reykjavík, is Iceland’s former president for over two decades, Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson. The Assembly was cancelled in 2020, but this year, Ólafur Ragnar sent out invites for a party.
The Savage Mountain When John Snorri Sigurjónsson was 14 years old, he flipped open a magazine and fell in love with a mountain. “From that point onward,” he would later remark, “there was only one mountain in my eyes.” He may have been referring to an article from 1987, which ran under the heading “Suicide […]
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