Guðrún Eva Mínervudóttir was born in Reykjavík on March 17, 1976. She worked as a waiter and bartender in various places in the years 1993 - 1996, while also studying at different high-schools. She graduated with a B.A. degree in philosophy from The University of Iceland in 2007. Guðrún Eva worked as a freelance journalist for newspaper Helgarpósturinn in 1996 - 1997. She is now a full time writer.
Guðrún Eva's first book, Sóley sólufegri, came out in 1998 in a very limited edition. In the same year the publishing house Bjartur published her short story collection Á meðan hann horfir á þig ertu María mey (While He Watches You, You are the Virgin Mary), to much acclaim. Since then Guðrún Eva has published more novels, a collection of philosophical stories for children published by The National Centre for Educational Materials and a book of poetry. She has also translated novels by foreign authors.
Guðrún Eva received The Icelandic Literature Prize in 2011 for her novel Allt með kossi vekur (Wakes Everything With a Kiss); she had previously been nominated to the prize for her novel Fyrirlestur um hamingjuna (A Lecture on Happiness) in 2000. The novel Sagan af sjóreknu píanóunum (The Story of the Pianoes That Drifted Ashore) was nominated for DV Cultural Prize for Literature in 2002 and Guðrún Eva was awarded the prize for her novel Yosoy in 2005. She received the Icelandic Women's Literature Prize Fjöruverðlaunin for Ástin Texas in 2019, and in the year 2021 whe was nominated for the Nordic Council Literature Prize for Aðferðir til að lifa af (Survival Methods).
From the Author
From Guðrún Eva Mínervudóttir
I expect that those who write stories do so because they get an idea and can not get it out of their head, they grow excited and restless until finally they put the story to paper. They have something to say and want to try to convey that message.
When I was in my eighth year I wrote message laden short stories. Amongst others there was one about a chicken that crawled out of its egg and immediately decided that it was the most beautiful creature in creation. It ventured out in the world to show off, but then it walked into a henhouse and met countless little chickens that looked exactly like it and there it learned humility, end of story. Another story was about a lion that could not roar and risked all kinds of dangers to reclaim its roar. And there where more in that vein.
My stories did get strong reactions. Mostly laughter. I still get a twinge of shame when I recollect how entire family parties screamed and shouted with laughter upon hearing my stories that were not meant to be funny at all. They were a dead serious criticism on the general state of the world. They were fables to guide people around the twists and turns of life. People did not laugh at Esop, or did they?
I am not of the same opinion as when I was eight and thought that a good story should represent wisdom that could be condensed into a single and immortal sentence. What qualities do I think a good story should have? It must somehow feel alive, we must sense that we have somehow experienced it ourselves, it must be a kind of an extra life, an addition to other experiences. A good story is not only good to kill time with but it is also something we adopt for ourselves mentally and then fetch like a book from a shelf when we need it. It lives with us like an independent world and makes our inner life richer, and because of it, and its sisters, we feel better in our own company.
According to this, writing must be a rather noble profession. Still, I do have a hard time of trying to get rid of the tiring feeling that I have not done a honest days work since I stacked hay-bales and shovelled shit on the farm a long time ago. I have sold booze and I have been on the receiving end of all sorts of wisdom at school and since then I have entered a kind of second childhood and accepted a stipend from the Author's fund for writing stories about a lion that roams the world looking for its lost roar and similar tales. The biggest difference between my old stories and the new ones is that nowadays I do not get upset if someone laughs at what I write, but find it a pleasure and delight because I champion the words of the wise person who wrote: Great benefactors of mankind are those who bring us beauty, greater are those who bring us wisdom and greatest are those who bring us laughter.
Guðrún Eva Mínervudóttir, 2001.
Translated by Dagur Gunnarsson.
About the Author
The entertainment value of memory
Guðrún Eva Mínervudóttir belongs to a batch of new authors in Iceland and she is the one who has caused the biggest stir in recent years. She came forth with the collection of short stories Á meðan hann horfir á þig ertu María mey [While he looks at you, you are the Virgin Mary] (1998), then came the novel Ljúlí ljúlí (1999) and following that came Fyrirlestur um hamingjuna [A lecture on happiness] (2000). Then came a collection of poetry; Á brún alls fagnaðar [On the verge of all happiness] (2000) which is divided into two halves, and the half written by Mínervudóttir are love poems to Hrafn Jökulsson who is the author of the other half of the book called Stiginn til himna [The stairway to heaven]. In 2002 two books were published by Guðrún Eva, called Albúm [Album] and Sagan af sjóreknu píanóunum [The story of the pianos that drifted ashore]. The author’s first book was actually Sóley Sólufegri [Buttercup outshining the Sun] (1998), but it will not be discussed here since only ten copies were printed and therefore it is not accessible to the common reader.
Ljúlí ljúlí tells the story of Saga, a girl of twenty who lives with her father at Karlagata [literally, the street of men]. Also staying with him for long periods are his four friends, Karl, Örn, Marteinn and Vésteinn. The name of their street is not a coincidence, because it is truly a man’s world.
To begin with the number of men can be confusing to the reader, but slowly you realise who is what and what role each man has in Saga’s life and its meaning for the plot.
Mamma þín kemur í heimsókn í næstu viku, sagði pabbinn.
Sagðirðu henni virkilega að hún mætti búa hér? spurði Karl.
Maður segir ekki nei við þessa konu, sagði Örn og svaraði fyrir hönd pabbans.
Heldurðu að það verði ekki í lagi, Saga mín? spurði pabbinn.
Á ég þá að setja slaufu í hárið á mér og æfa mig að vera góð og falleg?
Til dæmis, sagði Vésteinn og spratt á fætur. – Það er eiginlega stórkostleg hugmynd. Komum strax út í búð að kaupa slaufu. Ég skal hjálpa þér að velja litinn.
Ég kem með, tilkynnti Marteinn. – Vésteinn er svo smekklaus. Honum er ekki treystandi fyrir svona löguðu.
(Ljúlí ljúlí, p. 104)
[Your mother is coming for a visit next week, said the father.
Did you really tell her that she could stay here? Asked Karl.
You do not say no to this woman, said Örn answering for the father.
Do I have to put a bow in my hair and practice at being good and pretty?
Among other things, said Vésteinn and jumped up. – It is actually a brilliant idea. Let’s go immediately to the shop to buy a bow. I will help you choose the colour.
I’ll come along, announced Marteinn. – Vésteinn has no taste. He is not to be trusted in these matters.]
Bit by bit it transpires that the men have each their own existence outside Karlagata and Saga realises that she too can be an individual outside the group. But their plight is the same as the communists, united they stand, divided they fall. The system falters and the group disintegrates when Saga has an affair with one of the group.
Stórtíðindin ríða ekki við einteyming á þessu heimili, sagði pabbinn.
Til dæmis er Marteinn að fara að flytja til Ameríku með einhverri vinkonu sinni sem hann þverneitar að kynna fyrir okkur.”
(Ljúlí ljúlí, p. 103)
[It does not rain but it pours, said the father.
Marteinn is for instance moving to America with some lady friend he refuses blankly to introduce to us.]
Certain secrets that had been suppressed by the constant presence of the group come to light. In the latter half of the story Saga manages to befriend a girl and leave home, which reunites the group.
Most of the book is in third person narrative but other chapters are dated and are in fact the diary entries of Saga. The entries span one year.
27. ágúst 1997
Ég vil byrja á að trúa þér fyrir því að ég er einmana. Ég er samt ekki ein og það er ekki þögnin sem þjakar mig því Vésteinn og Marteinn og pabbi og þeir standa vörð um þögnina, að hún nái ekki til mín. Þeir mega eiga mig og ég má eiga svolítið í þeim líka. Það heitir ekki að vera einn. Hláturinn býr líka með okkur og ástin, býst ég við, þótt hún feli sig vandlega á bak við öll litlu rifrildin og þessa eilífu fyndni.
(Ljúlí ljúlí, p. 29)
[August 27, 1997
I want to start by confessing to you that I am lonely. Yet I am not alone and it is not the silence that is plaguing me because Vésteinn and Marteinn and father guard the silence, so that it can not reach me. They can own a bit of me and I can own a bit of them as well. That is not called being alone. Laughter also lives with us and love, I suppose, even if it hides carefully behind all the little quarrels and this endless humour.]
As Saga gets more confused or more in love the diary entries multiply, there are no entries in December, January or February. Then things start to happen and entries start to show again.
2. ágúst 1998
Ég byrjaði að halda dagbók til að sýna fram á að víst væri heiðarleikinn á boðstólum. Það eina sem mér tókst að sýna fram á er að ég get ekki einu sinni verið heiðarleg við sjálfa mig þegar enginn sér til. Þessi tilraun mín til að nefna hlutina sínum réttu nöfnum kolféll af því að þegar ég horfi til baka sé ég ekki það sama og fyllir blaðsíðurnar í þessari bók. Ég hef mengað atburðina og afskræmt alla sem koma við sögu. Ég hef ritstýrt lífi mínu eins og versti harðstjóri. Mig langaði að höndla sannleikann en ég vissi ekki að um leið og ég snerti á einhverju er ég að hagræða því og búa til lygi.
(Ljúlí ljúlí, p. 229)
[August 2, 1998
I started to keep this diary to show that honesty was on offer. The only thing I proved is that I can’t even be honest with myself when no one is looking. This attempt of mine to call things by their true name collapsed because when I look back I do not see the things that fill the pages of this book. I have polluted the events and disfigured everyone that enters the story. I have edited my life like the worst dictator. I wanted to handle the truth but I did not know that as soon as I touch something I am arranging it and fabricating a lie.]
Örn reads her diary and asks her if it is intended for publishing, Saga denies that.
- Þá þarftu ekki að láta eins og þú sért að skrifa einhverja ástarsögu sem á að komast á metsölulista og náttborð hverrar einustu kerlingar. Þú ættir að velja þér sjónarhorn sem er ekki svona einlitt. Veldu rödd sem er styrk og karlmannleg, blátt áfram, jafnvel svolítið köld eða í það minnsta tignarleg og alls ekki væmin. “
(Ljúlí ljúlí, p. 235)
[n that case you do not need to act like your are writing some romance that is meant for the best-sellers list and the nightstand of every woman there is. You should choose a point of view that is not so one sided. Choose a voice that is strong and manly, straight forward, even a bit cold or at least noble and not at all sentimental.]
This is the voice of the male of the species. He tells her to be strong and manly instead of sentimental. This rhymes well with the male attitude towards the writings of women in general and the theories of Hélène Cixous on female writings (“l’écriture féminine”). Cixous claims that the male dominance over the female body manifests itself in the way women write. Saga is surrounded by men who pretend to be creating fine art but in reality she is the one who is creative with her diary entries. She also breaks up the family ties that they had created. All throughout the story the men try to control Saga, just as they have tried to control history and the writing of history [mannkynssaga is the Icelandic word for history]. They do not fancy the freedom of women or their view on events or people, not to mention their soppy sentimentality. It is not surprising that the men at Karlagata are so many. They are the many facets of the chauvinistic world, and all of them behave as if they were her father, except possibly he who is always called dad by the narrator.
Fyrirlestur um hamingjuna [A lecture on happiness] is a family story. To begin with the story is told from the point of view of Haraldur, a small boy who is brought up by a woman called Margrét (and is not one for compromises). His father (Jónas) had caught a train and gone on a trip and only when he had run out of money did he call the mother of his child and announced that he was coming home. Haraldur refuses to move house to go abroad to live with his father Jónas, and therefore he stays behind to live with Margrét. Margrét’s husband had also abandoned her and never returned, much like Haraldur’s father.
Hjónarúmið var úr furu með rennda fætur og útskorna gafla. Margrét svaf þeim megin sem náttborðið var og leslampinn en Haraldur svaf upp við vegginn í bóli mannsins sem hvarf og sem eitt sinn var eiginmaður Margrétar. Hann fór í vinnuna eins og vant var einn kaldan vetrarmorgun, en um kvöldið, þegar maturinn var kominn á borð og maðurinn ókominn heim, hringdi Margrét til að vita hvort hann tefðist mikið lengur. Þá kom í ljós að enginn hafði séð hann, hvorki þann dag né daginn áður. En síðan voru liðin fimmtán ár og allir hættir að velta sér upp úr þessu.
(Fyrirlestur um hamingjuna, p. 18)
[The double bed was made of pine wood with whittled legs and carved headboards. Margrét slept on the side where the nightstand and the reading lamp were but Haraldur slept next to the wall, the place of the man who had disappeared and used to be the husband of Margrét. He left for work as usual one cold winter morning, but in the evening, when dinner was on the table and the man had not returned home, Margrét phoned to see if he would be much longer. Then it transpired that no one had seen him, neither that day nor the day before. But that was fifteen years ago and everyone had stopped wallowing in the matter.]
On the birthday of Haraldur, a volcanic eruption forms Surtsey [a small island south of Iceland], and thus has great influence over his future – he becomes a geologist. He later rents the flat next to Margrét but goes over to her place “every night at seven o´ock to partake in a humanly acceptable dinner.” (Fyrirlestur um hamingjuna, p. 43) She also takes care of his washing, because surely one can not expect university students to have time for such fuss. Unexpected events force him to move temporarily to his cousin Guðmundur and his girlfriend. The couple are of the same age as Haraldur and as things develop, he and Ástrós, the cousin’s girlfriend have an affair. This is at the time of communes and free love and so the cousins change rooms in a friendly fashion and from then on it is Guðmundur who sleeps in the guest room but Haraldur in the bedroom. Then Haraldur and Ástrós move together back to the flat next door to Margrét and have a daughter, little Margrét. And now the plot really gets going, because from here on the characters are named after each other and also have some of the original name bearer’s personal characteristics.
Margrét junior makes a friend called Jónas – just like her grandfather who is abroad. The friendship is a lasting one, even if he lives with a woman and a child in “some sort of ridiculous family game”. (Fyrirlestur um hamingjuna, p. 104)
Common sense and pride go with the name Margrét. “Margrét is not a member of the widespread should-have club.” (Fyrirlestur um hamingjuna, p. 151) Margrét then has a son, with Jónas, she names him Haraldur, and he becomes “a quick reader at the age of four thanks to grandfather Haraldur.” (p. 146).
And then the story focuses on Haraldur Jónasson the younger, because the youngest member of the family is always the main character and those who used to be the centre of attention turn into background material. History repeats itself. Each and every one of the characters think that they are unique but are really a repetition of some other person, with their name, rebellion, life-style or attitudes.
Á brún alls fagnaðar [On the verge of all happiness]
This book of poetry is a co-operation of Guðrún Eva and her husband (at the time) Hrafn Jökulsson. Half the book (29 pages) is written by her and the other half, which is exactly the same length, is written by him. His poems will not be discussed here since we are discussing the work of Guðrún Eva. The couple’s poems are love poems each has written to the other and her poems are direct and full of love.
miðað við allt púðrið
sem fer í að unna einu hári
verða vopnabirgðir heimsins
get ekki gert upp á milli
bráhára sem sveigja sig
svo þokkafullt daðrandi
kitla brjóst mín og kinnar
eða hinna sem hringa sig
um punginn og reyna jafnvel
að komast að leyndardómum
það er stríða höfuðhárið
sem hrærir mig oftast
syrgi samt á hverjum degi
the explosive energy
used to love one hair
makes the worlds arsenals
can not choose between
hairs of the brow that bend
so gracefully flirting
tickle my breasts and cheeks
or the others that curl
around the scrotum and even try
to find out the secrets
in the deeps of the navel, no!
it is the coarse hair on the head
with silver decorations
that moves me the most
still I mourn every day
This is a small trip around the body of the subject from the hair of his head to the pubic hair but still the world with it’s arsenal is near and it can even be expected that the fearful weapons move the poetic I as much as the shaving that holds back the hair growth.
The poems are of many different formats. The author can obviously handle many different meters and plays around with them in the book. She uses octain (as in the poem above), stanzas, and various different unconventional meters. It is hinted at that a certain quatrain is bad poetry [called “clay” or “clay making” in Icelandic], it is called “clay” by the author and is dedicated to Hrafn Jökulsson in the title Leir fyrir H [Clay for H]:
ó, hamingju minnar hálendi
með hæðum nýjum og nýjum
upp mig hífðir styrkri hendi
úr helvítis leiðinda dýjum.
[O, happiness of my highlands
with heights a new and new
who supports me with strong hands
away from sinking sands and dew]
The poem describes pure happiness and a lot of love. It is rare that readers know to whom a poem is written – and rarer still that they can read the poetical answer by that person.
Á meðan hann horfir á þig ertu María mey [While he is looking at you, you are the Virgin Mary]
It can be said that Guðrún Eva partly recycles her texts and the reader can therefore come across texts or bits of texts in more than one book. Thus the poem “Ljóðið sem ég samdi til þín áður en ég vissi almennilega að þú varst til” [The poem I wrote for you before I really knew that you existed] from the book Á brún alls fagnaðar has a parallel in the collection of short stories called Á meðan hann horfir á þig ertu María mey (which is the authors first book that the public had access to, for reasons of context it is dealt with here instead of in the correct chronological order). There it has two stanzas, but in the book of poems only one. The latter stanza, the one in both books is this one:
þú olíufursti skáksófans
bættu mér í búrið og ég skal dansa
fyrir þig magadans
þú ert bestur af öllum
palestínuaröbum sem ég þekki
bíttu mig í búrinu
það væri ekkert fútt í lífinu án þín.
(Á brún alls fagnaðar, p. 5 and Á meðan hann horfir á þig ertu María mey, p. 91)
[You oil sheik of the chess sofa
add me to the harem and I’ll dance
a belly dance for you
you are the best of all the
Palestine arabs I know
bite me in the cage
in the biting-cage
life would be grey without you.]
The short story, where both stanzas appear is called “Gefðu mér sígarettu og förum heim. Ég er með kökk í hálsinum.” ["Give me a cigarette and let’s go home. I have a lump in my throat."]. It tells the tale of a man who comes home from Akureyri, almost a broken man. The narrator who is a girl tries various ways to cheer him up. “Ég hoppaði á öðrum fæti upp allar tröppurnar, alla leið upp á fjórðu hæð þar sem ég bjó, en hann kættist ekkert. Rogaðist bara og rogaðist með töskuna sína þótt hún væri ekkert þung.” (Á meðan hann horfir á þig ertu María mey, p. 89) [I jumped on one leg up all the stairs, all the way up to the fifth floor where I lived, but he did not cheer up. He simply strained and worked hard at carrying his suitcase even if it was not heavy at all.] He makes a hill out of a molehill, has a lump in his throat for no reason, and makes hard work out of a light suitcase. He is a drama queen that she is trying to pamper. The women in the stories of Guðrún Eva rarely pamper men; they are self sufficient and mostly live in their own minds.
The book Albúm, which is the first of the two that were published in 2002, is a memoir in the form of a photographic album whose pages are being turned. To begin with the memories are fragmented and short and connected with the early childhood of the narrator, but as time passes the memories get laden with details and minor characters, because the narrator remembers more and becomes a fully formed character.
Ég átti að pissa í kopp. Það var ekki mjög vandasamt, ég hafði gert það áður, en að þessu sinni hafði líkaminn enga þörf fyrir að losa sig við eitt eða neitt svo að ég þurfti að sitja á þessum plast-óskapnaði úti á miðju stofugólfi þar til hnén voru orðin stirð eins og hurðin á gömlu kortínunni hennar ömmu. Amma, má ég fá vatn? sagði ég. Hún flýtti sér að ná í bolla með vatni og ég sötraði svolítið úr honum þar til hún sneri sér undan, þá hellti ég úr bollanum milli læranna á mér og sagðist vera búin. Amma var góð og brosandi og stakk upp í mig súkkulaðikúlu. Síðan sá hún hvað pissið var glært og þröngvaði puttunum upp í munninn á mér og náði í súkkulaðikúluna.
(Albúm, p. 9)
[I was supposed to pee into a potty. That was not very difficult, I had done it before, but this time the body had no need to get rid of anything so I had to sit on this plastic monstrosity in the middle of the living-room floor until my knees where stiff like the door on my grand mothers old Ford Cortina. Grandmother, can I have a glass of water? I said. She hurried to get me a cup of water and I sipped a bit from it until she turned her back on me, then I poured from the cup between my thighs and claimed to have finished. Grandmother was kind and smiling and put a chocolate into my mouth. Then she saw how transparent the urine was and forced her fingers into my mouth to fetch the toffee.]
Later it becomes one of her obsessions to be able to stick disgusting things into her mouth like the bits of sheep’s heads that most people do not eat, e.g. the tongue and the eyes. She becomes a tough girl, never gives up (mostly to win the praise of her foster father). She becomes very occupied by the very Icelandic idea that it is best to bear it and grin, and when she gets sent to a farm, she makes sure that no one suspects that she finds the work hard going.
Þessa fyrstu daga sumars var mikið að gera við að lagfæra girðingar og ég böðlaðist áfram í rigningu og sól og vindi með hamar og dollu með lykkjum, labbaði milli staura á grútlinum fótunum og negldi lykkjurnar með ónýtum handleggjum en gætti þess að hafa andlitið í réttum skorðum og vera bein í baki, því ég þóttist vita að linka mín vekti hlátur ef ég léti á henni bera. Í kaffihléum var ég utan við mig og lagði fátt til málanna og hló á röngum stöðum og sjálfsagt hafa margir hugsað að ég væri ekkert sérlega vel gefin en það gerði ekkert til, það var skárra en að þau héldu að ég væri aumingi og letingi.”
(Albúm, p. 91)
[These first days of summer there was a lot to do mending fences and I struggled on in rain and sunshine and wind with a hammer and a pot with metal loops, walked between the fence posts on my soft little legs and hammered in the loops with my useless arms but took care to keep a straight face and a straight back because I thought my softness would cause mirth if I acknowledged it. In the coffee breaks I was absent minded and didn’t have much to say and laughed at the wrong places and many have probably thought that I was not very intelligent but that didn’t matter, that was preferable to them thinking that i was a weakling and a lazy bones.]
She did not mind if they thought her stupid, only if the thought her to be hard working. The characters in Guðrún Eva’s books are far from being stupid. Mostly they are calm and collected and study humanity around them with a scientific interest. It is possible to upset them, like the main character in Albúm, but she becomes furious when the kids at school talk ill of her mother. Then she describes one of the boys as a “fjósafýlukvikindi” [a bully stinking of the cowshed] (Albúm, p. 71)
Ég trúði vart því sem ég heyrði, þetta var sama tónlistin og ég hafði heyrt í höfðinu á mér þegar ég var lítið barn og hélt að öllu lífi hefði verið útrýmt af jörðinni, nema það hefði gleymst að útrýma mér. Auðvitað fékk það ekki staðist, þetta var ekki sama tónlistin, en svona getur minnið gert úr manni fífl og skáldsagnahetju og allt þar á milli.”
(Albúm, p. 110)
[I could hardly believe what I heard, this was the same music I had heard in my head when I was a little child and thought that all life had been erased from earth, except they had forgotten to erase me. Of course this could not be, this was not the same music, but thus memory can play one for a fool and make one a character in a novel and everything in-between.]
This is exactly what Albúm turns the novelist Guðrún Eva into, makes her the fictional hero of her own novel. The reader can only speculate whether the memories are really based on the authors own. The mother in the novel is called Mínerva, just like the authors own mother, is she a music teacher and did she really take part in a play at Kirkjubæjarklaustur? And is the girl Guðrún Eva Mínervudóttir herself? She also rents a room with draughty windows just like the main character in Ljúlí ljúlí, and does that mean that, that book is also autobiographical? Or does the author use bits from her own life (and others) to write stories? This is probably a very Icelandic phenomenon, to read novels as autobiographies, knowing that biographies can be even more fictional than novels.
Sagan af sjóreknu píanóunum [The story of the pianos that drifted ashore]
Can you remember a parlour game where a short story is whispered into a players ear who then whispers it into the next persons ear and so on and so forth? The last one to hear the story must then recite it out loud and then it has, much to everyone’s amusement, turned into something completely different and has no similarity with the original story. Sagan af sjóreknu píanóunum is that kind of a story. The original story has long since been mixed up, it begins with a man who was going to make money from his daughters music tutoring by selling her pupils pianos. Then he could not afford the customs duty and therefore they where never delivered to their rightful owners who had paid for them in advance. The story has various endings where the pianos are either drifting ashore, rotting unprotected from the elements or sunken.
In some ways does Guðrún Eva continue with the memory speculations from Albúm, both because one of the main characters, Sólveig, tells the other main character, Kolbeinn, her own story and her family’s story, and also when Kolbeinn reads the thoughts and recollections of his grandfather.
Ég mun reyna eftir megni að segja frá öllu eins og það kom mér sannlega fyrir sjónir, en sá fyrirvari skal þó hafður, að það sem gamall maður telur sig muna, er ekki endilega í samræmi við bókhald Guðs og ég bið lesandann að trúa því, að jafnvel þótt eitthvað sem hér er sagt frá stangist á við aðrar heimildir um atburðina, þá rita ég af strangasta heiðarleik eftir því sem mér er framast unnt.”
(Sagan af sjóreknu píanóunum, p. 79)
[I will try to do my best to truthfully recount everything the way I saw it, but I would like to warn you, that what an old man thinks he remembers, may not necessarily correspond to God’s book keeping and I ask the reader to believe, that even if some things written here contradict other sources on the same events, I do write as honestly as I possibly can manage.]
It is truly important to the old man to recount the story correctly, which may be the reason for the number of stories of his piano importing and none of them the same. He contemplates every word to avoid any wrong documentation.
Endalausar vangaveltur um hvort þetta og hitt hafi raunverulega verið eins og höfundurinn minntist þess gerðu að verkum að allar frásagnir urðu mun trúverðugri en ella. Varfærnin undirstrikaði hversu höfundinum var í mun að segja satt og rétt frá.
(Sagan af sjóreknu píanóunum, p. 80)
[Endless speculations on whether this or that really had happened like the author remembers it, made all the accounts much more believable than they would otherwise have been. The carefulness underlined how important it was to the author to tell the true and correct story.]
This carefulness is of course very much in contradiction of most memoirs and biographies where the motto “better use whatever sounds better” is often used. The carefulness is fairly futile, because the stories about the pianos that drifted ashore have long since acquired a life of their own.
When Sólveig finally starts telling Kolbeinn her family story, she almost feels entitled to lie to him although she resists doing that. She feels that the art of story telling is closer connected to writing fiction than the truth and actually has that in common with many of those who tell their story “candidly and nothing held back.”
Let us move away from memory and memories to one of the themes of the story. The music of Jórunn Viðar, the ballet Ólafur liljurós, is playing in the headphones of the punk-inclined Kolbeinn and in Sólveig’s living room. Sólveig’s grandmother explains the story about Ólafur liljurós to her, who does not know that later she herself will get to know Ólafur and witness when he struggles against walking into the world of the hidden people.
What happens is that Kolbeinn gets involved in the mysterious world of Anarchists who refuse to take any part in society. What they do need is a contact person and Kolbeinn who is an aspiring lawyer is chosen. Thus Kolbeinn is living on the border between elves and humans; he works for the Anarchists who refuse to take part in the society of men. He manages to keep his distance without rejecting them and thus he gets away alive and without being “captured” by them. The Anarchists do tend to see him as one of them and they give him riches in the modern and Anarchistic sense (work and free housing). He does announce that he does not consider himself one of them. Thus he manages to get out of the society of the “elves” alive, unlike Ólafur liljurós.
Sagan af sjóreknu píanóunum is laden with speculations but is at the same time funny and thrilling. And even if it is not a love story, love does get a mention.
Þetta er ekki ástarsaga. Það er ást í sögunni en hún er of sjálfsögð og átakalaus til að eiga heima í ástarsögu, og þótt hún sé að þvælast hér innan um söguþræðina er henni ekki ætlað að gleypa þá með haus og hala og hefur enga burði til þess heldur.
(Sagan af sjóreknu píanóunum, p. 273)
[This is not a love story. There is love in the story but it is too obvious and free of struggle to belong in a love story, and even if it is lurking about in-between the strands of plots it is not to swallow them whole and does not have the strength to do so.]
The books of Guðrún Eva Mínervudóttir mostly take place in Reykjavík (with the exceptions of a few tiny places out in the country) and deal with loneliness and the search for inner peace as well as a place in society. Her characters are quiet and introvert, in a bit of a rebellion against society. Post-modern ideas and philosophical speculations about memory and its effect are prominent in her two last books, which are also entertaining and lovely to read.
© Bára Magnúsdóttir, 2003.
Translated by Dagur Gunnarsson.
Neijmann, Daisy L., ed. A History of Icelandic Literature.
University of Nebraska Press, 2007, p. 467
2014 - The DV Cultural Prize for Literature: Englaryk (Angel Dust)
2011 - The Icelandic Literature Prize: Allt með kossi vekur (Wakes Everything With a Kiss)
2006 - DV Newspaper Cultural Prize for Literature: Yosoy
2021 - The Nordic Council Literature Prize: Aðferðir til að lifa af (Survival Methods)
2016 – The DV Cultural Prize for Literature: Skegg Raspútíns (Rasputin's Beard)
2016 - The Icelandic Literature Prize: Skegg Raspútíns
2008 - The Icelandic Literature Prize: Skaparinn (The Creator)
2000 - The Icelandic Literature Prize: Fyrirlestur um hamingjuna (Lecture on Happiness)
Útsýni (View)Read moreSigurlilja er ung kona „sem passar ekki inn í normið“, eins og móðir hennar segir, og gædd óvenjulegri gáfu sem einfaldar ekki líf hennar.
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