The ambassador

New York

The novel Sendiherrann (2006) translated to English by Lytton Smith.

About the book:

Sturla Jón Jónsson, the fifty-something building superintendent and sometimes poet, has been invited to a poetry festival in Vilnius, Lithuania, appointed, as he sees it, as the official representative, of the people of Iceland to the field of poetry. His latest poetry collection, published on the eve of his trip to Vilnius, is about to cause some controversy in his home country when Sturla is publicly accused of having stolen the poems from his long-dead cousin, Jónas.

Then there´s Sturla´s new overcoat, the first expensive item of clothing he has ever purchased, which causes him no end of trouble. And the article he wrote for a literary journal, which points out the stupidity of literary festivals and declares the end of his career as a poet. Sturla has a lot to deal with, and that´s not counting his estranged wife and their five children, nor the increasingly bizarre experiences and characters he´s forced to confront at the festival in Vilnius…

From the book:

As cynical as it sounds, Sturla had calculated a rather simple math problem – a relatively clear debit-and-credit situation – in which, as a repayment of all those little amounts of money he´d loaned his cousin, he deserved to inherit a particular item Jónas had possessed, something which originally belonged to Sturla´s maternal grandfather. Fanný had given the item to Jónas when her father died, and it was something Sturla had longed to own. He´d always thought he would inherit it himself, never imagining that anyone else would lay claim to it when Benedikt died – or that his mother would think to give it to her brother-in-law´s family. The item in question was a high-quality light-brown leather folder which the ambassador Benedikt always kept on his desk in the embassy in Oslo and later, after he moved home, in his office on Reynimelur. It wasn´t so much the tired, strange beauty of this Norwegian document folder that had attracted Sturla when he was a child peering into his grandfather´s office: what he had found thrilling was that Benedikt, the esteemed public servant, had used it as a base when he wrote letters and reflections, and he put all kinds of papers into the leather folder, papers that, in Sturla´s mind, were certain to contain crucial information about relations between the Island in the North and the Rest of the World.

Jónas had probably admired the folder too when he and his parents visited Benedikt and Anna at Reynimelur, but Fanný´s decision that he should inherit it was indicative of her nonsensical belief that he was the promising intellectual in the family: such a jewel ought to be in the hands of a thinker. It was true that Sturla ended up making use of some of the ideas Jónas had thought up and kept in the folder, and it was also true that Sturla´s grandfather´s folder had contained those ideas, but in other respects Jónas´s life turned out to be a poor model. He never became the promising and self-assured ambassador Armann Valur had predicted he would in the classroom on Lækjargata the year Heimaey erupted. He was never sent overseas on behalf of his country.