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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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Culture

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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Looking Back

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
Culture

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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Business

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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Valdimar Jóhannsson
Culture

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.
Business

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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