Tag: Books: Scandinavian Literature


Review: History. A Mess.

Posted 21 October, 2019 by Lianne in Books / 0 Comments

History. A Mess.
By: Sigrún Pálsdóttir, Lytton Smith (Translator)
Format/Source: Paperback; my purchase

While studying a seventeenth-century diary, the protagonist of History. A Mess. uncovers information about the first documented professional female artist. This discovery promises to change her academic career, and life in general . . . until she realizes that her “discovery” was the result of two pages stuck together. But she’s already reached the point of no return, and she goes to great lengths to hide her mistake—undermining her sanity in the process. A shifty, satirical novel that’s subtly funny and colorful, while also raising essential questions about truth, research, and the very nature of belief.

I picked up this book after a fellow book blogger featured it on his Instagram. It sounded interesting–the main character is a protagonist! The author is Icelandic!–so I snatched it up right away.

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Review: Bloodhoof

Posted 10 June, 2019 by Lianne in Books / 0 Comments

Bloodhoof
By: Gerður Kristný, Rory McTurk (Translator)
Format/Source: Paperback; my purchase

Bloodhoof is the re-casting into compulsively spare modern verse of an ancient Eddic poem – but this only begins to hint at its attractions. It is a minimalist epic telling of the abduction of Gerdur Gymisdottir from the land of giants to the court of Freyr of the ‘wolf-grey eyes’, and the subsequent events culminating in the birth of her son and her hopes of being saved by her own kin.

It is full of iron-hard rocks and ice, serpents in the breast gnawing at the harness of hope, but also wide-reaching fields of corn whispering in the breeze and a throne carved with beasts and dragons-heads. You could read the whole book in perhaps half an hour but it will take many months or years to begin to clear the ghosts and long-dead heroes from your mind.

I first encountered this book while I was in Iceland; there was this bookstore I had visited the first time I was there and revisited it again recently. However I didn’t pick up a copy of this book until I returned to Canada–bought way too many books as it was at the time!

Bloodhoof was a wonderful read. I don’t remember encountering the original Eddic poem when I read the poems a few years back, but thankfully this book has an introduction that introduces the original poem and where Kristny draws her sources from to write this book. I especially love the fact that this book is bilingual, with the original poem in Icelandic set at the top and the English translation at the bottom; Icelandic is a complex language but I always appreciate it when a book is bilingual like that, you can refer to it. The poem itself is minimalist but rich in imagery and feeling.

Suffice to say I really enjoyed this poem and glad I picked it up 🙂

Rating: ★★★★★

Learn more about the author on Wikipedia || Order this book from The Book Depository

Two Book Reviews

Posted 5 June, 2019 by Lianne in Books / 0 Comments

The following are two reviews (sort of) that didn’t warrant a post of their own. Unfortunately this post is a bit of a downer, but I also didn’t want to pass them off and not post about them, if that makes any sense lol.

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Moonstone: The Boy Who Never Was
By: Sjon
Format/Source: Paperback; my purchase

The year is 1918 and in Iceland the erupting volcano Katla can be seen colouring the sky night and day from the streets of Reykjavik. Yet life in the small capital carries on as usual, despite the natural disaster, a shortage of coal and, in the outside world, the Great War grinding on.

There, sixteen-year-old M·ni Steinn lives for the new fashion – the movies. Asleep he dreams altered versions of them, their tapestry of events threaded with strands from his own life. Awake he hovers on the fringes of society. But then the Spanish flu epidemic comes ashore, killing hundreds and driving thousands into their sick beds. The shadows of existence deepen and for M·ni everything changes.

Capturing Iceland at a moment of profound transformation, this is the story of a misfit in a place where life and death, reality and imagination, secrets and revelations jostle for dominance. With not a word wasted, this mesmerising and original novel is the work of a major international writer.

It’s funny, I was actually eyeing this book the last time I was in Iceland but didn’t pick it up at the time. So this time around when I went I did have it on my mind to pick up a copy 😉

It’s my first Sjon novel so I’m not sure how it holds up compared to his other books. I thought it was an interesting read, reading how the Spanish flu affected Iceland, what life was like in Reykjavik in the early 20th century. There is also the added factor of what it was like to be a homosexual in Iceland in the early 20th century (though Mani I think was bi? I wasn’t sure if it was intrigue or infatuation re: Sola).

All in all it was an interesting read, although the epilogue chapter seemed tacked on and a bit of a leap for me. Nonetheless I’m glad to have picked it up and to have finally read a novel by Sjon.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Visit the author’s official website

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Waitress in Fall
By: Kristin Omarsdottir
Format/Source: Paperback; my purchase

For over three decades, the work of Kristin Omarsdottir has thrived in the vanguard of Icelandic literature. Waitress in Fall offers anglophone readers the first substantial selection of her poems in translation. Spanning thirty years and seven collections – from her first to her latest – this wide-reaching introduction celebrates a vital voice in contemporary European poetry.

Kristin Omarsdottir’s work resists the sweet, the neat or the certain. Her poems delight in the lush mess of actual life, in its hands and fingers, lemons and clocks, socks, soldiers, snow, knives, mothers, nightstands, sweat, and crockery. The domestic is at the heart of the poems, but it is a domesticity tinged with threat: something `clear and ominous’ persists between the lines.

These are surreal, unsettling landscapes, in which children lap milk from trees and car tyres are `soft as skin’. But Kristin’s poems are also full of laughter, sex, and love. They accept vulnerability as a condition of intimacy. Erupting `wherever thirst is ignited’, they are not afraid to strike, to rage, recognising a right – a responsibility – to risk the necessary word, even to `wound the language’.

This book kept following me in Iceland: at the bookstore, then at the airport, so I decided to pick it up, lol. As I haven’t heard of this poet until I visited Iceland this time around, picking up a book that spans much of her work these last few decades seem like the best place to start. It’s a great collection that indeed touches on the above topics, especially that of love and intimacy, and certainly raises that of everyday things we see, touch, and do to new heights. Definitely worth checking out.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Learn more about the author on Wikipedia || Order this book from the Book Depository

Review: The Midnight Sun

Posted 3 June, 2019 by Lianne in Books / 1 Comment

The Midnight Sun
By: Cecilia Ekback
Format/Source: Paperback; my purchase

Sweden, 1855. Worst thing I ever saw… The Minister of Justice has received a disturbing message. There’s been a massacre on one of Lapland’s mountains: a priest, a law enforcement officer, and a local settler have been slaughtered by one of the indigenous Sami people. The murderer is in custody, but he refuses to talk. The Minister dispatches his son-in-law, a geologist, to investigate, as there is another reason to visit BlackÂsen: it is a mountain with many secrets, a mountain whose rich mineral deposits have never been exploited. But Magnus does not journey alone. The Minister’s daughter, in disgrace, is sent with him.

The two unlikely companions venture out of the sweltering city to the wild landscape of Sweden’s far north under the strange, insomnia-inducing light of the midnight sun. There, the shocking truth they discover about the murders and what lies behind them will only be matched by what they discover about themselves. For Lovisa and Magnusóand for the people of BlackÂsenó nothing will ever be the same again. In The Month of the Midnight Sun tells a riveting story of the collision of worlds old and new, and cements Ekback’s status as a master of Nordic noir.

I completely forgot but I actually read her first book, Wolf Winter (review), a few years ago. Oops; clearly read too many books at this point :3 Anyway, I picked this book up on a whim (which is something of a rarity these days) and took it with me when I went on holiday a few weeks ago.

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Review: Iceland’s Bell

Posted 2 March, 2018 by Lianne in Books / 2 Comments

Iceland’s Bell
By: Halldór Laxness, Philip Roughton (Translator)
Format/Source: Paperback; my purchase

Sometimes grim, sometimes uproarious, and always captivating, Iceland’s Bell by Nobel Laureate Halldór Laxness is at once an updating of the traditional Icelandic saga and a caustic social satire. At the close of the 17th century, Iceland is an oppressed Danish colony, suffering under extreme poverty, famine, and plague. A farmer and accused cord-thief named Jon Hreggvidsson makes a bawdy joke about the Danish king and soon after finds himself a fugitive charged with the murder of the king’s hangman.

In the years that follow, the hapless but resilient rogue Hreggvidsson becomes a pawn entangled in political and personal conflicts playing out on a far grander scale. Chief among these is the star-crossed love affair between Snaefridur, known as “Iceland’s Sun,” a beautiful, headstrong young noblewoman, and Arnas Arnaeus, the king’s antiquarian, an aristocrat whose worldly manner conceals a fierce devotion to his downtrodden countrymen. As their personal struggle plays itself out on an international stage, Iceland’s Bell creates a Dickensian canvas of heroism and venality, violence and tragedy, charged with narrative enchantment on every page.

I had been eyeing a book or two from Halldór Laxness for a long time but it wasn’t until I travelled to Iceland last year and seeing his books everywhere that I decided to pick a book of his up. I decided to go with this book because of its expansive scope of 17th century Iceland and its ties to the Danish kingdom at the time (Denmark being the other place I went to last year). So here we are 🙂

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