Future Imperfect

Frida Ísberg

“I was maybe six or seven when I discovered writing could suit me as a profession. And since then, I’ve always been working on a book,” author Fríða Ísberg tells me. We’ve met at a café in Reykjavík’s Vesturbær neighbourhood to discuss her debut novel The Mark, which just came out in Australia and the […]

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President Presents Optimism Award, Invests Twelve With Order of Falcon

Twelve people were invested with the order of the Falcon at a reception at the Bessastaðir presidential residence on New Year’s Day. Shortly before Christmas, the order council passed a motion to present the badge in the same manner regardless of the recipient’s gender. A day later, President Guðni Th. Jóhannesson awarded the Icelandic Optimism Award to poet and writer Fríða Ísberg.

Until now, women invested with the Order of the Falcon have worn a knight’s cross or a grand knight’s cross on a bow but men on a ribbon. On December 5, 2021, the order council passed President of Iceland’s Guðni Th. Jóhannesson’s motion to make the ribbon the same for people of all genders.

All recipients now wear Iceland’s Order of the Falcon on a ribbon, regardless of gender.

The order is Iceland’s only order of chivalry, founded by King Christian x of Denmark, grandfather to the current queen of Denmark, in 1921 when he and queen Alexandrine visited Iceland. It was created and presented for the first time on July 3. With the foundation of the Republic of Iceland in 1944, the President of Iceland became the Grand Master of the Order of the Falcon.

The Icelandic Optimism Award was formerly known as Brøste’s Optimism Award, founded by the Danish Peter Brøste in 1981. Fríða has worked as a writer for a long time despite her young age. Fríða was nominated for the Nordic Literary Prize for her first short story collection, and despite only publishing her debut novel Merking a few months ago, her books already have been or are set to be translated into 14 different languages.

The twelve people invested with the Order of the Falcon on January 1, 2022:

  1. Professor Áslaug Geirsdóttir, Reykjavík, for her work in the field of geology and climate research.
  2. Bjarni Felixson, former sports reporter, Reykjavík, for his work in the field of sports, social affairs, and communication.
  3. Writer Gerður Kristný Guðjónsdóttir, Reykjavík, For her contribution to Icelandic literature.
  4. Entrepreneur Haraldur Ingi Þorleifsson, Reykjavík, for his work in the field of innocation and social affairs.
  5. Education Specialist Jóhanna Guðrún Kristjánsdóttir, Flateyri, for her contribution to education and culture in her region.
  6. Family Physician Katrín Fjeldsted, Reykjavík, for her contribution to healthcare and social affairs in addition to her public service.
  7. Designer Kristín Þorkelsdóttir, Kópavogi, for her pioneering work in the field of design and contribution to art.
  8. Ólafía Jakobsdóttir, former mayor, Kirkjubæjarklaustur, for ehr work in the field of nature conservation and cultural affairs in her region.
  9. Musician and composer Sigurður Flosason, Reykjavík, for his contribution to jazz music and work in music education.
  10. Professor emeritus and Head Civil Engineer Sigurjón Arason, Kópavogur, for research and development in seafood production.
  11. Ambassador Stefán Haukur Jóhannesson, Reykjavík, for public service.
  12. Professor Emeritus Trausti Valsson, Reykjavík, for his contribution to planning studies and national discourse.



Impostor Poets Make Impressive International Debut

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.

Fríða Ísberg and Bergsveinn Birgisson Nominated for Nordic Council Literature Prize

The Nordic Council has announced the 13 nominees for its 2020 literature prize. This year’s two Icelandic nominees for the prize are Fríða Ísberg, for her short story collection Kláði (‘Itch’), and Bergsveinn Birgisson, for his novel Lifandilífslækur (‘Vitality Brook’).

“The short story collection Kláði…is a beautiful example of the breath of spring that young writers can bring to literature” the committee wrote in their rationale. “The narrator considers old subjects with new eyes, and the stories are in many ways different from what they were. Renewals and changes are among the most important conditions of life for literature; sometimes they arise when new people take the stage and look at topics in a different light. The narrative method is both realistic and modernist. The value of the work lies first and foremost in a strong emotional approach, which requires the reader to relate to attitudes and values in the present time.”

The committee also commended Bergsveinn for his historical novel, which “…plays out in the borderland between two worlds: the realism and scientism of the 18th century stand opposed to the forces of nature and mysticism. It is hard not to see the work’s reference to modern times, where dangerous dogmatic interests threaten human and emotional intelligence.”

The Nordic Council Literature Prize has been awarded since 1962. It is given to a literary work (poetry, prose, or drama) written in one of the Nordic languages and is meant to “raise interest in the Nordic cultural community and Nordic co-operation on the environment, as well as to recognise outstanding artistic and environmental efforts.” Eight Icelandic authors have previously won the prize: Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir (2018), Gyrðir Elíasson (2011), Sjón (2005), Einar Már Guðmundsson (1995), Fríða A. Sigurðardóttir (1992), Thor Vilhjálmsson (1988), Snorri Hjartarson (1981), and Ólafur Jóhann Sigurðsson (1976).

The winner of this year’s prize will be announced on October 27 in Reykjavík in conjunction with a meeting of the Nordic Council. The winner will receive a Northern Lights statuette and DKK 350,000 (ISK 6.49m/€46,856).

The Chandelier

illustration of an open window

Author Fríða Ísberg (1992-) is a writer and poet, born and raised in Reykjavík. She studied philosophy and creative writing at the University of Iceland and has written for the Times Literary Supplement. Her book Slitförin (Stretch Marks) was one of the most popular poetry books in Iceland in 2017. She is a member of poetry collective Svikaskáld ( Impostor Poets), a group of six women who’ve published two poetry collections, Ég er ekki að rétta upp hönd (I Am Not Raising My Hand) in 2017 and Ég er fagnaðarsöngur (I am Applause) in 2018. Her short story collection Kláði (Itch) is due to be published in October 2018.

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