Tag Archives: Vikivaki

Gunnar’s Message to the War

Gunnar Gunnarsson described Iceland to the Germans in 1940 as “Our Land.” This land:

Not Exactly Germany

It was a typical game for this sly trickster.

Gunnar Even Conned Me Out of My Hat

Doesn’t he look pleased!

Did he mean, “Your land and mine,” after his novel Blood Brothers?

From the German Book Club Edition of 1933.

Or did he mean “The land of all Icelanders and no one else,” after his 1933 novel Vikivaki?

The 2011 German Edition

A ghost story combining The Little Prince, a Dance of the Dead, and Jacob’s Ladder.

Well, he was playing it both ways, as usual. But then, he was a poet.

And to poets, answers lie in the water, the sky and the land. He meant one thing only:

Bring no war to this place. It is who we are and all we are. No argument.

You can read the heart here, if you’re a poet. If you’re not, isn’t it about time?

Valdimar Goes to Church

Note that he borrows Jacob’s Ladder, just like Gunnar did in Vikivaki.p1350310

Grundarfjörður

Now Jacob went out from Beersheba and went toward Haran. So he came to a certain place and stayed there all night, because the sun had set. And he took one of the stones of that place and put it at his head, and he lay down in that place to sleep.Then he dreamed, and behold, a ladder was set up on the earth, and its top reached to heaven; and there the angels of God were ascending and descending on it….

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Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.” And he was afraid and said, “How dreadful is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven!” Genesis 28

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At the end, you might have to jump. This is called “a leap of faith.” Good knot work to hold the ladder in place will make that easier for you.

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A Dictionary of Atlantis

When I left Skriðuklaustur a little less than a year ago, a fox ran beside me as I turned away from the lake towards Egilsstaðir and a glorious, sunny flight (with Air Iceland chocolate) to Reykjavik. I took it as a good omen. On my hard drive, I had the notes towards a book written during four weeks of becoming so immersed in Gunnar Gunnarsson’s work that it was written in the death-dance style of his novel Vikivaki. It is now finished and ready to find its way into the world. It begins like this:

A DICTIONARY OF ATLANTIS, by Harold Johanesson

An introduction to Gunnar Gunnarsson’s books of literary spy craft Islands in a Giant Sea, The Shore of Life, The Black Cliffs, Vikivaki, The Gray Man, and The Good Shepherd by Gunnar Gunnarsson, in the form of Vikivaki and in the light cast upon them by the essay, Our Land, which Gunnarsson presented to Hitler and Goebbels in the wartime spring of 1940.

Atlantis? Yes, Gunnar took a cruise there with his mistress and a group of Danish and German intellectuals and literary figures dabbling in racial theory, in June of 1928. The trip changed his life and set him on a twelve-year-long program as a secret spy working entirely on his own, without confiding in anyone, to change the course of the foreign and military policy of the Third Reich. Here’s the image that haunts me, of the day in the spring of 1940, just after he hoped to stand triumphantly before Hitler. Quite the opposite was the case.

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Secret Agent Gunnar (in the black coat).

Note the fencing thrust of the right leg of the SS Officer next to him. That’s Otto Baum, who would soon capture Norway for Hitler.

My book shows both what Gunnar had in mind and how his use of literature to further his cause created a genre both ancient and 75 years ahead of his time. My next tasks are to find a publisher for this book, to write a play about Gunnar’s meeting with Hitler, and to open the book up into a series of literary essays about Gunnar’s works, their form and their context. 20th Century literature has lost one of its central stories. By sheer good fortune I have found it. There is much exciting work to be done.

The Language of ice

Gunnar Gunnarsson’s published a fascinating ghost story called Vikivaki in 1932. Iceland is still writing them. Take a look…

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Ghosts, Öxarárfoss, Iceland

What’s a ghost? Why, something that’s neither dead nor alive and which brings a message from deep within your story.

As for people, they’re writing something else. Here’s what visitors to Iceland write upon the body of the land when they visit:

P1260717Troll People, Þingvellir

They just have to leave a record of themselves, it seems, using whatever is at hand.

For people who live within a landscape, language comes from the land, the water, the light and the air. Here’s a piece of just such a language from Iceland:

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Language Beginning, Öxarárfoss, Iceland

Forget about cuneiform and Linear B and language starting with bird tracks in sand. There is another way. Forget about writing for purely human audience and deferring the environmental costs of turning from the earth until the future. That future is now.

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Language Beginning as Art, Öxarárfoss, Iceland

Compare that to the lines in this stained glass window from the church in Reykholt, West Iceland:

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Mary, The Christ Child, and Three Angels

Reykholt

Iceland is a country in which Christianity is uniquely bound to the soil. Unsurprisingly, Gunnar’s ghosts are a surprisingly devout bunch, called forth in a moment of nationalist zeal. This is one lesson I’m going to happily take home to Canada in 6 weeks. Sometimes the hidden people of a country can be the people themselves.

Next: I will explore these ideas further by discussing an Icelandic artist who paints with ice.