Lectures & Literary past

My Father’s Library, Hyena called Yesterday & Tunglið forlag With Ásta Fanney Sigurðardóttir & Ragnar Helgi Ólafsson — Taste of Iceland

L&R—Book Jackets courtesy Tunglið forlag; C—Ásta Fanney Sigurðardóttir and Ragnar Helgi Ólafsson ©Sandijs Ruluks & Art Bicnick

SAT—May 13—2 PM, free

The Taste of Iceland culture festival returns this May to NYC! On May 13, join us as writers Ásta Fanney Sigurðardóttir and Ragnar Helgi Ólafsson present their forthcoming books Hyena called Yesterday and My Father’s Library – A Requiem in a special literary event at Scandinavia House moderated by John Freeman. Ragnar Helgi will also present a discussion on the aesthetic principles and mysterious business model behind his publishing house Tunglið forlag (The moon’s publishing house), which will be launching the two books as well as Anne Carson’s Raw Salon Sitcom at an event in Williamsburg later this evening.

In My Father’s Library — A Requiem, on the eighth anniversary of his father’s death, it falls to Ragnar Helgi to sort through more than 5,000 volumes accumulated by his book-publisher father during his lifetime. During this process Ragnar meditates on the relationship of fathers and sons, on memory, typography, page layout, the nature of jokes, book binding and gilding, Icelandic local lore, the music of Händel, the elfish hidden people of the Iceland’s hinterlands, the disappearance of the book as an objects, his own divorce and how things fall apart. As prose written in the spirit of poetry, a graceful, melancholic and very funny account of changing values and ways of being, My Father’s Library has been hailed as “full of beauty, confusion, grief, death and resurrection” (Ragnar Kjartansson) and “sublime and unclassifiable” (Þorgeir Tryggvason, Kiljan RÚV).

In a spin-off from Ásta Fanney Sigurðardóttir’s most recent book Forevernoon (Partus Press, 2022), the hyena called Yesterday at last takes center stage. Is it a sweet dream, a doomsday fairytale, collection of poems that carelessly swirl language into abstraction, or a libretto of an unstaged dramatic musical? The only thing we can say for sure is: “Moonlight is milk for nightcats.” Hyena Called Yesterday is acclaimed for its “beguiling mix of avant-garde innovation and surreal tenderness” (The Guardian) and “an instant classic of the Icelandic avant-garde” (Eiríkur Örn Norðdahl).

In today’s program, Ragnar Helgi will also explain why his Tunglið forlag, a publishing house, felt the need to plan a world tour on its 10th anniversary, and why he sometimes sets fire to unsold copies of his books.

About the Authors

Ásta Fanney Sigurðardóttir is a poet, visual artist and musician based in Reykjavík. She is widely considered one of Iceland’s most innovative poetry performers and has toured worldwide exercising her unique poetic stagecraft. Her latest collection of poetry, Eilífðarnón, was published in Iceland in 2019, and appeared in English as Forevernoon in 2022. She is the recipient of the Kópavogur Poetry Prize and was in 2021 nominated to Le prix international de littérature Bernard Heidsieck–Centre Pompidou.

Ragnar Helgi Ólafsson is a writer/visual artist and the author of eight books of poetry and fiction. He is a recipient of the Tómas Guðmundsson Poetry Prize and has been nominated for the Icelandic Literary Prize two times over. His visual art and performances have been exhibited in Europe and America and his books have been published in translation in France and Germany. Last February, Ragnar’s latest poetry collection, Laus blöð, was nominated to The Nordic Council Literature Prize. Ragnar Helgi also serves as Editor-in-Chief of Reykjavik-based Tunglið forlag-publishing.


John Freeman is the founder of the literary annual Freeman’s and executive editor at Alfred A. Knopf. He is also the author and editor of a dozen books, including Tales of Two Planets, an anthology about the global climate crisis and inequality; Dictionary of the Undoing, a book length essay about language and reality; and Wind, Trees, a collection of poems. His work has appeared in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, and Zyzzyva, and been translated into over twenty languages. He lives in New York City, from where he hosts The California Book Club, a monthly discussion of a new classic in Golden State writing held over Zoom.

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