Earlier this week, the BBC, as current as ever, featured an article regarding the publishing industry in Iceland. Entitled ‘Iceland; Where 1 in 10 People Will Publish A Book’, it explained briefly about the importance of the written word to Icelanders, touched briefly on the Sagas, made reference to ‘jólabókaflóð’ (Christmas Book Flood – the release of numerous books before Christmas; Icelanders love to give books as presents) and then that was it.
I thought I’d take it a little further, and list a few Icelandic authors who have been translated into English. You may wish to seek their work out, and maybe have a little ‘jólabókaflóð’ of your own.
Hallgrímur Helgason – Dark, humorous and often slightly worrying, Hallgrímur writes about the darker side of Icelandic life, no more so than in 101 Reykjavik and The Hitmans Guide To Housecleaning.
Arnaldur Indriðason – one of Iceland’s contributors to Nordic noir, he is a master of crime and mystery. Often produces gripping tales that could only happen in Iceland, with his brooding Detective, Erlendur.
Nanna Árnadóttir – This debut writer produced Zombie Iceland, a fast paced zombie adventure set in Reykjavik, complete with pointers on Icelandic culture, illustrations from Hugleikur Dagsson and links to Icelandic music to listen to with each chapter.
Halldór Laxness – The master and Noble prize winner. Seek out Independent People; still as relevant now as when it was published, this classic is the tale of Bjartur and his struggles in the harsh Icelandic terrain as a sheep farmer.
Sjón – a friend of Björk, Sjón produces enigmatic and beautiful prose, that often lurks between fairy tale and dark surrealism. The Blue Fox is the best novella you may ever read.
Alda Sigmundsdóttir – after being a key commentator on Iceland’s financial collapse, and producing the amusing The Little Book Of Icelanders, Alda has turned her hand to novel writing. Her first novel, Unravelled, is the story of two different meltdowns.
Yrsa Sigurðardóttir – Another excellent crime writer, Yrsa produces suspenseful, clever plot lines with the occasional spark of Icelandic humour. Not surprisingly, ‘I Remember You’ is already receiving the Hollywood treatment.
Guðrún Eva Mínervudóttir – Guðrún has a keen eye for the minutiae of Icelandic life, no more so than in her latest novel, The Creator, set against the backdrop of a man who makes sex dolls in Akranes, and an unexpected visitor.
Andri Snær Magnason – a prolific writer, Andri manages to write award winning children’s books (The Story Of The Blue Planet) and hard hitting non-fiction (Dreamland: A Self-help Book For A Scared Nation). Also worked with the Icelandic band Múm.
Auður Ava Olafsdóttir – probably best known for the sensitive and gentle ‘The Greenhouse’, Auður has just published ‘Butterflies In November’, which even contains Icelandic recipes, and again, is about to become a major film.