Five Great Books to Introduce You to Icelandic Literature
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In many ways, the books on this list are intrinsically bound by the Icelandic landscape. It would seem no matter which Icelandic book one reads, the barren expanses, the flat greenery at the centre of the island, the ice sheets and glaciers, the jagged volcanic rock and black sand shores are never far away. It’s a small island with a landmass of just over 100,000 square kilometres. There’s no escape from the terrain, the sea, the elements.
And I feel now, perhaps more so than when I visited the country with my copy of Hrafnkel’s Saga in hand, that Iceland is very much a nation in unison with its surroundings. Its 332,000 people adapted long ago and have used their isolation to their benefit, reaping all that the sea and the land have to offer. And it’s because of this unison, because of their sequestered existence, that the geographical details of the island seep so heavily into the literature, almost as if it is another character itself. Iceland makes for incredibly theatrical backdrops. Theirs is a stark, cold beauty of open spaces and dramatic edges.
Iceland is a country where one in every ten inhabitants will publish a book. A striking statistic. But a positive one. The five books below are not necessarily the best of this tremendous output, but they are excellent and they make for a well-rounded introduction to Icelandic literature; they offer a range of style and genre and they incorporate the country, the land and the people into their pages.