Deep North - Stories from Iceland

Fiction

Iceland Review publishes translations of short stories by Icelandic authors.

Features

Deep dives into current events, contemporary issues, and the lesser-seen sides of Icelandic society.

Interview

Interviews with artists, scholars, politicians or other notable figures in Iceland.

Photography

View Iceland through the lens of some of the country's most accomplished photographers.

Looking Back

Looking back in Iceland's history, at the curious incidents, colourful characters, and heroic deeds that shaped the nation.

Issues

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Cream of the Crop

Row after row of steep but flat-topped mountains, interspersed with deep fjords. There’s barely enough land in between to make up a coastline, let alone farmland. But on the green patches between the cliffs and the waves, there are still

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Material World

When Canadian media theorist and philosopher Marshall McLuhan wrote that “the medium is the message,” he did not mean that

paganism iceland

Pagan Poetry

Ásatrú Society, how may I help you?” This was neither the voice of a gruff metalhead nor the voice of

Mad World

“Exceptionally rudimentary software” On Friday, November 11, I attended an appointment with a psychologist in Reykjavík. For weeks leading up

Staying Power

Elsa Pálsdóttir was doing what she loved most: Deadlifting. As she rested between sets, she chit-chatted with a man of

Disaster on Dark Seas

U-300 On the morning of November 20, 1944, a single U-boat cruised silently at periscope depth beneath the rough waves

Getting the Word Out

The Icelandic Literature Centre awards grants to some 80-100 translations from Icelandic to other languages each year. The number of applications

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Reykjavík Nightlife after COVID

Is It Really Over?

LOITERING BENEATH THE AWNING OF AN ASIAN RESTAURANT Raindrops are pattering on Laugavegur, and I’m debating whether or not to invest in a disposable vape pen. I’ve recently gone frigid turkey-bird but have made the concession of vaping during nights out on the town. Despite the exhilaration inherent within this escape clause, I forgo the […]

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Stream Big

SCOTT JOPLIN

In 1899, American ragtime composer Scott Joplin – living in Sedalia, Missouri – composed The Maple Leaf Rag and hoped to get it published. He took the sheet music to John Stark, one of the leading publishers in town, who looked at it and scoffed.

“There are too many notes!”

Disappointed, Joplin aired his grievances to a young lawyer and a fan, who managed to convince Stark to buy The Maple Leaf Rag on the terms that the composer would receive one penny for each copy sold. Joplin may have thereby become the recipient of the first royalty payment in history.

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Woman of Letters

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.

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A Diamond In the Rough

There are three things that make Iceland distinct. Firstly, the relatively small land itself is full of glaciers, volcanoes, and its stark beauty. Secondly, the remarkable people who populate the land and whose ancestors only survived countless catastrophes with a combination of tenacity, hope, and stubborn love of their petulant land. And finally, the peculiar Icelandic language which is spoken by fewer than 350,000 people worldwide and is notoriously difficult to learn. This last aspect of Iceland, the Icelandic language, is perhaps one of the most difficult to appreciate for foreigners.

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Þjóðbúningur Icelandic national costume

It’s a Living Thing

In 2004, Þorgerður Katrín Gunnarsdóttir, then Minister of Education, Science, and Culture, appeared on live television wearing Iceland’s national costume. The outfit seemed perfectly appropriate for the occasion, which was the reopening of the National Museum of Iceland following its renovation. But it soon became clear that the Minister’s choice of outfit had backfired – […]

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Labour of Love

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.

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Helga Páley Friðþjófsdóttir Helga Páley Friðþjófsdóttir

Cracked Earth

The earth’s crust cracked at the poles. Inside, there was nothing but air and the little sun at the core of the planet. When I was a child, you could just barely make out the edge of the North Hole (a lame pun even then) from the northmost tip of Iceland. The only trace of […]

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Valdimar Jóhannsson

Of Lamb and Legends

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.

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the ash-streaked ice walls of the Sapphire Ice Cave.

Ice in His Veins

Upon entering the cave, I become immediately wary of its integrity. It would be a rather foolish way to go. This apprehension endures for all of two minutes, however,
as the mind, seemingly bored by its own alarm, begins to wander. Few profound thoughts emerge, aside from the somewhat flaccid observation that being inside an ice cave is vaguely like standing inside an Iittala glass. After another two minutes, the unease has dissipated completely, and later, I find myself following our guide deeper and deeper into the darkness, utterly devoid of any reservations.

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Churning Onward

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.

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Friðrik Gíslason. Westman Islands

The Westman Islands Army

Iceland’s largest town throughout the pre-modern period was not Reykjavík, which for most of its history was little more than a collection of small farms. One of its largest was Heimaey, or “Home Island,” in the Westman Islands archipelago, just off the south coast. The first Icelandic census of 1703 shows only 318 people living […]

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