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Facing North

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.

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john snorri icelandic mountaineer

Closer to the Stars

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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I Only Think About You In Long Sentences

You dumped me during a recession. You’d just lost your job at the ad agency. You said you needed to make a radical change in your life, you’d run aground, were stranded, it was over, and yet, you said, you wanted to part on good terms and before I could think whether I wanted to […]

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Building Bridges

Would you believe me if I told you that Icelandic is not a particularly unique language? Or that it’s not in immediate danger of dying out? What if I told you it’s not a “small” language at all? And what if I insisted that Icelandic is well on its way to conquering the digital world? […]

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Head in the Cloud

WHEN URBANISATION HAPPENED, IT DIDN’T DESTROY THE COUNTRYSIDE, IT’S STILL THERE BUT IT DOESN’T DICTATE OUR BEHAVIOURAL PATTERNS LIKE IT USED TO. NOW WE’RE ENTERING THE CLOUD BUT THE CITY WILL REMAIN. WE’LL GO TO CAFES AND GO TO WORK BUT THE FOUNDATIONAL RECOGNITION OF OUR EXISTENCE WILL NOT BE BASED ON THE STREET WE […]

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The Night Watch

During the summer solstice, construction workers pave new roads in the night. It’s late June. The skies are clear. The yellow vests are grimy. Above the banks of lake Þingvallavatn, a crew of men are laying asphalt – working on a stretch of road maybe a kilometre long. As the dump trucks come and go, […]

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Living Memory

Fifty kilometres [30mi] southwest of Rauðavatn lake, far beyond the din of the city, is a town that is not only a town, but also a memory of one – a memory that its townspeople endeavour to conserve, each in their own way, each according to their own design. Some come looking for context, others for narrative, and a few come looking only for peace.
They find it here, some of them. By the sea. Among the birds. In the quiet.

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Running

The first impression I got of her was from her brother.  It must have been a few months back. He was saying how she had returned to training after Christmas and declared that she was in much better shape than them. “I outran ’em all,” she had said. Not like she was referring to the […]

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Take a Hike

A tale of Arctic foxes, empty beaches, and a journey into the Hornstrandir wilderness The northern coast of the Westfjords is known as Hornstrandir. To get there, you drive as far as you can go and sail for as far as the local boat will take you. After that, there’s nothing to do but walk, […]

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Parliamentary Elections 2021

The indecision stems, partly, from superabundance. A superabundance of letters and symbols and numbers – and the meagerness of time. For the undecided voter, the question becomes how to process the available information: how to translate the plethora of value statements and policy proposals and opinion pieces, authored by the various members of the various parties, into a coherent and votable whole.

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What it Takes to Belong

There is no synagogue in Iceland. Jewish individuals who wish to get married in Iceland do so at a nondenominational chapel. Those who pass away are honoured at the nondenominational Fossvogur Cemetery. In 2018, 250 Jews were living in Iceland; by the time this article is published, that number will likely be around 300. Famous […]

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The Foreman

The crime In the small hours of a cold and dark night in 1827, Hjörtur Jónsson’s slumber was interrupted by the distant sound of wood cracking. Wielding a long iron bar, someone was violently prying open the wealthy farmer’s front door; hinges creaked, groaned, and then gave way with a faint bang. Now fully awake, his […]

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