Iceland has more writers, more readers and more bookshops than any other country. So says the BBC. One in ten Icelanders will publish a book. And chances are it will be read. By Icelanders. They import and translate more literature than any other nation. Catalogues filled with book titles drop through letterboxes coming up to Christmas and Icelanders pore over the pages while the rest of us ogle glittery pine cones and Crate and Barrel baubles.
Iceland, embrace me as one of your own. We are made for each other.
It’s one month since I published my novel and here I stand shivering, faltering on tremulous legs as I await sales figures, speculation on translation rights, and all manner of things I am not qualified or adult enough to deal with. Then over the sound of my nervously chattering teeth I hear tell of this golden-laced horizon, these friendlier literary climes, this Utopia for Unknown Authors.
Iceland. How cosy the sound. The one remaining place in the world where a writer is guaranteed an immediate readership.
I have already taken steps to facilitate mine and my novel’s Icelandic sojourn. I have translated the title. Silk for the Feed Dogs? Voila!:
Silki fyrir Faeda Hunda.
Music to my ears. You’re welcome, Iceland.
I had been contemplating rewarding myself for these hectic few months by stretching out on a sun-dappled hammock swinging between two pine trees on an undulating sandy shore, south of the border, with a pina colada straw wedged between my lips. Now I holler, North, Miss Tessmacher, north! Bring me erupting geysers, steaming earth, volcanoes, molten lava and glacial rivers. And straight vodka.
You see, in Iceland even the gurgling soil is stirring things up; dislodging the ground beneath one’s feet, hurling fragments of your physical location about you; literally keeping you on your toes: Hubble bubble, toil and trouble… What a cure for writer’s block it must be. A projectile steam of hot air to the arse might just be the only thing left likely to get me moving, some days.
You know, dear Iceland, we’re practically kin. When the Norse settlers arrived in the ninth century, who did they bring with them? Lowly Gaelic serfs, that’s who. I just so happen to be a lowly Gaelic serf.
Oh, we Irish get everywhere, whether we have money in our pockets or not. Like bedbugs, one bums a ride and before you know it the place is overrun.
Anyway dearest Icelanders, you are our descendants. It is your duty to take care of your elders. We even have the same name except for one measly little letter. What’s a ‘c’ or an ‘r’ between friends? I’m sure I could speak to someone and have it updated. How does Icerland suit? Let’s come together as one!
For we should officially unite. We have already so much in common for two such remote little islands stoically bracing the North Atlantic’s elements. We have similar literary traditions producing our sagas of the middle ages: those epic tales of romantic heroes, warriors, kings, chieftaincies. We are currently recovering from a devastating financial failure through no fault of our own; we are but lowly serfs, after all. Our plucky peoples have battled plague, famine and domination––the latter, you guys seem to have battled more successfully than us, but hey…
Now I know the Reykjavik International Literary Festival is over for this year but I’ve marked my 2014 calendar. Say no more, I’ll be there. And how charming that the event culminates with a Literary Ball. I love to dance and read––together, how did you know! Well, actually, I love to walk and read together, which in this part of the world it is not greatly appreciated. I find myself regularly followed by a cacophony of car horns and curse words, the tutting and elbowing sometimes so fierce, I am forced to unglue my eyeballs from the pages which so captivate me and look at what’s going on around me. Harsh. So, as you can, with this kind of training, dancing and reading should be a breeze. I shall practice kicking up my heels while turning pages this very night.
One last thing. Bjork. There is no bigger fan than yours truly. You’ll not find one, search high and low, geyser and volcano. I even went through a period in art college of such devotion that I modelled myself after her, wearing my hair in the knots of her Debut years, cocooned in mohair and the only noises I made were beeps and hiccups before I clapped both hands over my mouth and giggled. I still wear head to toe swan on occasion.
Iceland, consider this an open letter (as they seem to be quite popular these days). We are meant to be together. I won’t take no for an answer. Stay right there, I’m getting my coat.
Is Bjork likely to be in town this time of year..?
Even if you are not in Iceland, you can buy Silk for the Feed Dogs here.