The Icelandic Past Lives On, Even Though the Angels Have Fallen

Thor’s Shield, the shield volcano after which all the rest are named, has been cross-stitched with pylons, in this highly-industrialized landscape off the beaten tourist path. That is “nature” in Iceland, and yet look at the ancient stone bird in the foreground. The old country is here, too, but not as a metaphor and not as a transfer of energy into modern forms.

Skaldbreið and Pylons  from Uxahryggir

These are the old forms, continuous with forms yet unborn. I am waiting for the writers of Iceland to be the guides that the writers of the sagas were once, who gave us a completely new take on the world, an alternative to East or West.  It’s not my place to say whether Iceland’s writers should walk down a path to the yarn-telling of crime literature or not (although most are), but it should give pause that Gunnar Gunnarsson ‘s The Black Cliffs was the first crime novel in Iceland, and it did not shy away from ambiguity, irony, contemporary themes or the deep, deep past in which they are embedded, just as the fallen angel-bird above is embedded in this mountain pass equally with Thor’s Shield or the power line from contentious dams to an American aluminum plant. In other words, the past is with us. It is not possible to forget it, only to silence it, and, thereby, to end the present.

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