Fríða Ísberg and Þóra Hjörleifsdóttir, two members of Iceland’s Impostor Poets collective, are catching the attention of readers around the world. Þóra’s novel Magma (translated by Meg Matich), was included on Oprah’s list of the 21 best books in English translation to be published in fall 2021. And translation rights to Fríða’s Merking (The Mark) were sold to five countries before the book had even been published in Iceland.
Narrated in elegantly spare, visceral language, Magma tells the story of 20-year-old Lilja, whose whirlwind love affair with a charismatic, confident, and self-important classmate quickly and almost imperceptibly turns abusive. “In impressionistic, mesmerizing chapters, Hjösleifsdóttir [sic] dives deep into the fire-rivers of lust,” Hamilton Cain at Oprah Daily concluded, “[and] just how much humiliation we’re willing to tolerate in the name of love.” Magma also caught the attention of book reviewer Tammy Tarng, who included it as one of the New York Times’ Globetrotting picks this summer, while reviewers Annabel Gutterman, Cady Lang, and Raisa Bruner at Time named it as one of the “36 Books You Need to Read This Summer.”
Merking is a work of speculative fiction that is centered around the Empathy Test. According to its supporters, the test can establish whether the taker is a moral and compassionate person, while its detractors believe that it is an unjust infringement on privacy and autonomy. The novel was only just published in Iceland this week, but prior to its publication, has already found homes in five other countries around the world: Laffont in France, Hoffman & Campe in Germany, Gyldendal in Denmark, Norstedts in Sweden, and De Geus in The Netherlands.
Magma and Merking are both Þóra and Fríða’s first novels. Fríða previously published two poetry collections and a collection of short stories that was nominated for the Nordic Council Literary Prize. Along with the other four members of their Impostor Poets Collective, Þóra and Fríða have also co-authored three books of poetry and a novel, Olía (Oil) which came out in Iceland this month as well.