“While neighboring Denmark, Norway, and Sweden went on Viking raids in Europe, the people of Iceland, a small, isolated nation of Nordic and Gaelic origin in the Atlantic Ocean, gradually became “Paper Vikings,” winning their battles and deeds in words that would eventually end up on paper. They were dreamers, poets, and storytellers who continued to write for centuries in their own – and gradually more obscure – language. As Iceland fell off the European map, its people continued to copy and add to their extraordinary heritage, even when no one in the outside world could or cared to read it.
For Icelandic writers today, this heritage is both a privilege and a burden: they are keepers of a proud tradition, but they must also look to their own times, reflecting on the profound social upheavals of the 20th century that saw Iceland emerge as a modern Nordic nation, followed by the economic boom and devastating collapse in the 21st century.
Iceland’s literary traditions date back to the founding of Iceland in the 9th century. Despite its geographical position and small population, Iceland produced some of the most remarkable literary treasures of the Middle Ages, in particular the sagas and Eddic poetry. Guðmundur Andri Thorsson, esteemed Icelandic author and literary critic, discusses how this rich literary history continues to inspire and influence contemporary authors – including himself.”
About the author
“Guðmundur Andri Thorsson (b. 1957, Reykjavík) is a highly-regarded face on the Icelandic literary scene, known for both his books and his weekly column in Iceland’s most widely-circulated newspaper Fréttablaðið. He holds a degree in Icelandic and comparative literature from University of Iceland (1983) and has worked for many years as an editor for Iceland’s two leading publishers Mál og Menning and Forlagið.
Thorsson’s first novel, My Joyful Anguish/Mín káta angist, was published in 1988 and followed by seven more novels and books of essays and short stories. Several of his novels have been nominated for the Icelandic Literary Prize, including his latest Honor/Sæmd (2013). In 1991 Thorsson was awarded the DV Cultural Prize for Literature for the novel The Icelandic Dream/Íslenski draumurinn. In 2013 his collection of short stories The Valeyri Waltz/Valeyrarvalsinn was nominated for the Nordic Literature Prize and is currently going through publication in Germany, France, Denmark, and Norway.”