Due to me being a massive nerd with too many biology/zoology student friends (as if there could be such a thing), I received no fewer than three books about birds for my birthday. Unfortunately, two of them were the same. Both my parents and the Icelandic family I live with got me Íslenskur fuglavísir, which is like a field guide to Icelandic birds. It's a beautiful and informative book, but I don't need two copies. So today I finally got around to going down to Eymundsson and exchanging one of them. I managed to get three paperback novels for it!

I am upsettingly ill-read in Icelandic literature. Apart from the sagas and other medieval bits and bobs, quite a lot of Laxness, and a handful of Arnaldur Indriðason murder mysteries, I have only read six Icelandic novels. Unless you are an Icelander reading this, that is probably more than you, but it is pretty poor considering my ambitions. I wanted to get a collection of short stories by Gyrðir Elíasson after I watched a documentary about him on RÚV the other night, but I went to the smaller Eymundsson shop because it is closer, and the only book they had by him looked like poetry to me, which is generally the hardest literary form to understand.

So I got some Icelandic classics in an attempt to get a better feel for the Icelandic literary tradition. It will probably take me absolutely ages to read them, though. My eyes were most likely way bigger than my stomach, if you can apply that idiom to reading books. I chose Grámosinn glóir (The Grey Moss Glows, but has been published in English, translated by Bernard Scudder, as Justice Undone) by Thor Vilhjálmsson, who died this year, Bréf til Láru (A Letter to Lára) by Þórbegur Þórðarson and 79 af stöðinni (79 from the Station - I think) by Indriði G. Þorsteinsson (the father of Arnaldur Indriðason, incidentally).

I just started Bréf til Láru this evening and it is HARD. There are a lot of difficult words; it is kind of a struggle to puzzle out. Here is the second sentence, with the words I had to look up in bold. Some of them were not in the dictionary and I had to look up their components. 

"Gegnumsýrður af heilögum innblæstri sem blóðmörskeppur í blásteinslegi, titrandi af hamstola lyftingu, vaggandi af ómþýðum englaröddum, er til mín hljóma gegnum gengishrun og öreigaóp vorrar vesölu jarðar, tvíhendi ég pennastöngina þér til dýrðar, þér til eilífrar dýrðar og vegsömunar, andlegrar umturnunar, sáluhjálpar og syndakvittunar, hvar af þú ljómar og forklárast eins og sólbakaður saltfiskur frammi fyrir lambsins stól."

Maybe it's just a dramatic opening, and won't be like that all the way through. Might switch to 79 af stöðinni, which looks a lot easier and probably doesn't use words like blásteinslögur (as far as I can make out, this is a copper sulphate solution).

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