A speech given at the Sylvia Kekkonen Symposium in Finland 2010. The ordered topic was an egotrip: Myself as a writer.
Lines Drawn in Snow.
As I had strong grandmothers and a strong mother I have never worried about lacking something in the pants department. As a child I heard the question all kids are asked: What are you going to be when you grow up? silently, for myself, I answered and decided: a journalist or a member of Parliament. I wonder where that confidence came from. I learned to read very young, reared by father, as my mother’s bosom was always full of younger breed – when I was eight years old I had three younger sisters and one brother. I guess I tuned into my father’s ambition to get his admiration and love. He was so wonderful, beautiful and happy when I proved my cleverness to him. I was an innocent unformatted and unprogrammed computer, unkowingly taking in his ambititious program.
Mother was more easy, with a few years of classic education and was an ok piano player, and being an only child she decided to have many, stuck in the household role anyway. I´m their third child. She had a strange dream when I was in her womb. She dreamed that the Mountain lady, romantic feminized symbol of Iceland in national costume, handed her a new born baby. When I was born mamma was disappointed that I was a girl, as she was used to dreams of premonition. Living in a male controlled society she thought a child given to her by the national symbol would have an agenda and thus be a boy.
When I was fourteen years old I changed, through hormones, as we all do. I lost the guts I had as a child. I became very soft voiced, mysterious and feminine, no way I could assert myself as a journalist or a politician. Had no interest in that direction anymore. I still wanted to change the world as I did as a child through media or politics, knowing the world was all fucked … with Hiroshima, world wars and Vietnam. But as a teenager I became this very feminine no activist being, my hormones made my focus turn inward towards art and books. I studied history at the University level, in Sweden, Mexico and Iceland, was a dream escape artist, drifting away into bygone centuries. Never harboured any longings to become a writer.
There is a core in the apple and oak vision, as mother like child. My mother wrote a childrens book, based on her mother Thorunn’s memories as a child growing up in Reykjavík at the beginning of last century. She also wrote poetry, but didn´t publish until late. I was occationally complimented for my writing in school, as a child and teenager. Got A with honours for my diary written at Yaxchilan, a Mexican Maya site on the Guatemala boarder, doing fieldwork as an archeolgical artist. But at the University of Iceland my style of writing was critisized as too personal or poetic, as historical studies at that time were influenced by the German Ranke school, that tried to turn history into pure science. But doing English at the side at BA level I read books by English historians of a very different school, seeing history as one of the Muses. I realized that excellent, inspired writing makes good historical books, of the descriptive kind rather than books of pure analyzing. I studied annalist history, describing every day life in the past, quite close to historical fiction in fact. Had been a sucker for historical novels and cinema since I can remember. Mesmerized by Gone with the wind, Angelique, Stephan Zweig. I wanted to relive history, go there.
I finished my Cand. Mag. degree 29 years old with a thesis on the history of every day life in Reykjavík in the 19th and early 20th century, lifestock, cultivation, dogs, cows, milk, meat, pete, manure, water, horses, and added an extra year in the University to become a qualified teacher. It was coincidence that I wrote my first book, it was – as where my first three books – written by order, I was asked to write them. The Historical Society was at that time publishing a series on Reykjavík and asked me to change my thesis into a book. I got a grant and changed it into a readable book with charming old pictures.
My second book grew out of my first one in 1986, so to speak. My professor lived next door to a guy that worked with an almost 90 year old man who had been a farmer in old Reykjavík, and there was interest in the agriculture establishment to have his biography written. As I knew the background my professor pointed his neighbour towards me. I was hired, got my first computer and got paid while I wrote his biography. As a two book writer, with applause, an old man of stature asked me to write a biography of his 18th century ancestor, a priest, poet, magician, and Iceland’s first playwrite. He promised me backup if I couldn´t finance my research and writing. I spent three years writing the historical biography of reverend Snorri Björnsson at Husafell, it was a success, got nominated to the first Icelandic literature prize, sold in 5 thousand copies, hardcover and pocket book. At that time I guess I realized I had become a writer. Never planned to, Fate just brought me this triple opportunity on a silver plate. Since then I have worked as a freelance historian and writer.
My fourth book was poetry. My fifth one a science fiction novel.
I have written 19 books, 4 history books, 3 biographies, 2 historical biographies, 3 books of poetry and 7 novels. Being married and having two children and cats on the side has made my life full in the sense that I didn´t have time/energy to think about myself and thus have stayed relatively sane and that equals happy?
It is hard to describe ones own fiction. Unnar Árnason researched my texts in 2003, and was great help, sharpening my analysing my literature: http://100.bokmenntir.is/hofundur.asp_cat_id=317&module_id=210&element_id=502&author_id=95&lang=1 Upto 2001 women and history were recurrent themes in my fiction. As an historian I did research within patriarchal history, still tried to describe all the feminine I could find in 18th and 19th century records, within the scope of my work, but historical sources from the world of women are scarse. My novels on the other hand gave me ample opportunity to write and fantasize within the fields of my own sex.
In my first novel Júlía (1992) female researcher/computer programmer-/historian Ágústa pieces together the story of the main characters. It´s a science-fiction narrative which revolves around Júlía and Starkaður’s love and finally their destruction in a futuristic society. When I wrote this novel I forgot what a small society I lived in and wrote as a citizen of the world, in my tiny snowy tongue. I got one horrible review from a domineering female critic with 19th century taste that positively hated my book, and my hypersensitive mind let it overshadow the good reviews the book received. It made me realize that if I wanted to survive as a writer of fiction within my tiny mothertongue it would be clever to write closer to mainstream Icelandic literature. Fantasy and science fiction is an ok genre in big languages, but it still is nerd literature for the few. I didn´t want to paint myself into a corner. Didn´t want to be a sell-out either. Tried consciously to retain my originality while trotting along a more common road.
My next novel Höfuðskepnur (Elements, 1994) is again narrated and experienced through a female writer. As Árnason pointed out, her life also provides the material for her writings, which approximates the form of the diary or letter, two favourite research materials of historians. Alveg nóg (Enough, 1997) also shows the main character, Guðrún’s, account of her life trough a tragic narrative. Stúlka með fingur (A Girl With a Finger, 1999), a historical novel set around 1900, stems from the mind of the main character, Unnur. I transferred the research of the past so to speak onto Unnur, and used my mother’s children-biography of her mother, and found the necessary passion for a good novel through fantacizing on my grandmother and namesake, who died when I was very young. My mother died before I could ask her about her mother Thórunn, so I brought her to life, so to speak, through fantacy. I changed my grandmother´s name into Unnur, the nickname my father gave me. The name of the book derives from the fact that the main character got saved because being the victim of an avalanche she managed to reach her finger through the snow. Thus she got saved and survived. Unnur gets educated and flees from a horrible high class mother in law to be to England where she becomes the assistant of a wealthy scientist, that she had helped collect specimens from Icelandic nature. She thus fights and improves her position in a patriarchal society. The book was a success, got the DV cultural prize and was nominated to the Nordic literature prize and published in Swedish as Flicka med finger.
In my fifth novel Hvíti skugginn (White Shadow, 2001) the story jumps between four centers, main characters of both genders. With the help of a special organization and the Internet, the new confession booth (a double meaning), they remove the distinction between theory and its subject, making their own life their subject. Since then I have written 2 crime novels with a male main character. One critic dared me on TV to center my novels on a masculine character, thirsting, I guess, for my kind of analysis on his sex. I took him by the word, bored of female centric themes anyway. Initially I didn´t quite see how I could describe the mind of a not feminine human, a he-man, imagining it worked in different ways from my womb-man mind. Then luckily I realized nobody knows how another man thinks! I studied he-men, how they speak, move, act, and blew life into characters that I initially modelled on guys I knew. They became their own character, after months of nurturing them in my head and on the computer screen.
My sympathy for the muscle sex grew, young men are having harder time than women, they drop out of school, commit suicides, many have had an identity crises since the war of the sexes. It´s a serious thing to demonize patterns of behaviour that have developed through millennia of human history. Initially there was no finesse in feminism as it blamed all men as a group, instead of targeting a few alpha apes, the few men with power, and the basis for their right to exercise their power. Most he-men are wonderful serving creatures. All ideological criticism should be targeted on individuals that act out the ideology, not on a group … and what a crime to attack half humanity. We shouldn´t blame all white people for the horrors of colonialism, a whole nation for starting a war. Still we tend to. We have to be very specific when presenting powerful ideas. Ideology is dangerous, like dynamite, it kills. History is written with rivers of blood that were sanctified with ideology.
The research element, so dear to me as an historian, ofcourse thrives within the crime genre, and is close to the discovering element in historical research. My hero, detective Leo, solves cases with his team. I love to mix genres, as I have repeatedly done making delicately researched historical books an interesting reading for a wide public. I hate literature snobbery, sneering at some literary genres as low down despicable species. Thus I planned to write a crime novel with originality and use so called fine literary style. To have fun on more levels I modelled my crime novels on medieval sagas. I used Njall’s saga as a model for the first one and Laxdaela saga for the second. It was a very satisfying intellectual game for me as an historian to see how mediecal themes and phsychological patterns played out in contemporary society. The sagas center around killings, often instigated by women. Feuds kept up respectability and honour, and death was not classified as murder when its basis was honour. This opens a vista into our present judgement of murder, the root is old and had positive connotations. Ancient humans often sanctified the need for killing as they do in medieval times – reflected in the sagas. The sagas have interesting low key very intricate psychology, love and passion, pure classic. In my present day game with the medieval themes the reader who knows the sagas has double reading fun, enjoying a crime novel through the medieval mirror. Triple fun if the reader enjoyes the use of fresh poetic lingua, as well.
I will give you an example of how the well read reader has fun seeing how I stage classic conflicts on a contemporary stage. In Njall’s saga facing death Gunnar asks Hallgerður for a lock of her hair for his bow. She refuses, saying it’s payback time for a smack he gave her on the cheek. In my contemporary version Gunnar asks Halla to lend him his mobile phone and she refuses, for the same payback reason, he had lost his temper and beaten her. Thus he can’t phone for help and meets his death. My Njall’s saga crime novel got nominated to the Icelandic literature prize. My second one will be published in October.
Unnar Árnason analysed my style upto 2003 and found several reocurring poetic and philosophical themes. For example Perception and Circles. In my first poetry collection Fuglar (Birds, 1991), he pointed out how I dress the idea that human perception is tied to a circle, the horizon, in poetry. Each personal space, where everything can be controlled, dissolves into horizons.
Human perception is like a red dot on a map which tells you that you are “here”: “the red dot is where you are”, is written on the map in my poem Old churchyard. Invisible the red dot follows you through the landscape of death and by the gate as you leave the red dot is still where you are. This vision may be associated with individualism, Árnason noted, although it is not directly linked to political individualism. He says my vision is philosophical and as such comes … perhaps … closest to solipsism. According to Árnason (I like his observation) I demand much of the individual/subject, because he/she must constantly be constructing a new world picture or horizon around him/herself. Of course, he adds, we conscious beings often cut corners by adopting ready-made world pictures from outside ourselves, but the work that goes into the construction of a world picture nonetheless happens every second. Of this he says, I remind the reader, in my poems and through fictional characters.
Each world picture is accompanied with a logical foundation that justifies it. Each cicle of truth is under constant attack from other truths because the horizon of our consciousness is constantly clashing with other such circles:
a ram lamb in Suðursveit
sentient meat in wool
thinks he is a movable mountain
realizes he is not the consciousness of the horizon
when the car comes speeding towards it
This is how the circles of our consciousness clash, albeit not normally in such a direct and physical way as here, explaines Árnason.
I would like to take Árnason’s analysis further and call these circles of perception emotive centers. Not only humans have them, as was made evident by the lamb in the poem. Even insects have them. Every living thing is an emotive center, a sentinent being. Moving physically, those of us who are mobile, through space and time. A bit like drops of rain falling on water, each moment different. Difficult times are like snow crystals that take a long time to melt, if they ever do. … Experience in our emotive center is a drop of sentinent water that immediately gives way to the next moment. Time feels like water, our eyes travel through endless horizons of multicolour sensations, that impress and feel different … to eat and touch.
Snow in it self is multifaced, as all people close to the poles know so well. There are many words in Icelandic describing snow, here are a few nouns: snjór, fönn, fjúk, mjöll, hríð, hjarn, snær, lausamjöll, nýsnævi; blindöskubylur, bylur, drífa, él, ysja, drift, nýfenni, nýsnævi, fannfergi, hundslappadrífa, snjókoma, mugga, harðfenni, slydda, föl, skafrenningur, ofankoma, mylgringur, fannburður, kafald, fannkoma, kannkyngi, fannkyngja, fannspýja, fjúk, geyfa, hraglandi, hríð, hríðargeyfa, hríðarkóf, kafald, kafhríð, klessingur, kóf, kófbylur, kófviðri, kyngi, kyngja, logndrífa, maldringur, maldur, mjallroka, moksturshríð, moksturskafald, mulla, ofanburður, ofanbylur, ofanfjúk, ofanhríð, ofankafald, ofanmjöll, pos, skafrenningur, snjógangur, snjóhraglandi, snjóhreytingur, snjóhríð, snjókyngi, snjókyngja, snjómugga, snjóæsingur, svælingsbylur … verbs meaning to snow: snjóa, aula, bosa, drífa, fenna, fjúka, grána, hlaða niður, hríða, keyfa, kyngja niður, mugga, rjúka, skafa, skefla, snjóvga, þyrpast að … Haraldur Matthíasson wrote the article “Veðramál” (speach of weather) as a birthday greeting to Alexander Jóhannesson in 1953. There he writes about 179 icelandic words that have something to do with snow.
Snowy tongues write infinate lines in snow. Horizons ofcourse are snowy in the winter.
Árnason notes more examples of how my individualism/solipsism does not prevent the merging of two consciousnesses, in my poetry and novels. He analyses the books as accounts of the gaining of a new consciousness, that merges the old conscious of the individual/subject into a new one. My fictional characters are often scholars or artists who use their art to organize their lives. I guess I try to preach between the lines, without being blunt about it, as I can´t stend overt social realism, so popular when I was a teenager. Loving history of ideas, I am very aware of how much good 19th literture did in spreading fresh ideas, freeing people. My whole career as a writer I have had my old agenda since I was a child, wanting to expand human consciousness to help make a better world. When I was 20 years old I lived with two homosexuals. They helped me realize how homosexuals still where treated, at that time. Female and racial emancipation, sexual freedom and humanism through democracy has remodelled our world in the last decades, emancipation in a broad sense. I have consciously tried to cure the reader of old inhibitions. When accused of being too blunt, sexually, in my text I say I´m not vulgar, it´s life itself that is pornographic, not me.
Literature should, I think, or at least be allowed to mirror life as it is. Some contemporary writers never mention the urges that creation is all about. It makes me suspicious, it´s very 19th century to be shy in text. The second thing I like to preach without preaching is green sympathy. We need to take the Love your neighbor as yourself much further. We need to love every creature and the kingdom of stones as ourselves – the planet is in such danger. Instead of overtly preaching green themes I use symbols. Every emotive center is important. It is counter-egoism, I guess. Or multi-egoism.
Unnar Árnason calls this theme in my writing: Man and Animal. He uses the lamb ram as the centre of the horizon, cited in the poem earlier, among other examples. I emphasize other emotive centers than humans, and man’s genealogical proximity to all animals. “flies are related to humans” a few mutating genes. In The poem “Islands of Galapagos” I fantasize about how people in Iceland would look after million years having taken on the form the islands demanded, as did the marine iquanas in Galapagos, that adapted so well to their waterless environment that they learned to drink salt and spit it out through the nave at the back of their necks.
Both in my historical and fictional writing I like to remind the reader of the chain of life, linking humans and animals in similes and metaphors. I deconstruct the history of man, unthink the sick codes of our culture and recycle myths. My inspiration comes equally from history and science, literature, religion and fiction. Árnason cites a chapter from my 1989 18th century biography:
The scientific belief which followed the Enlightenment shows, like all human phenomena, sick symptoms if emphasised too strongly. The space which scientism gives human perception is so tight that it splits a centuries-old ideology, “the word of truth”, and eliminates the powers of mysticism, symbolism and imagination. (p. 273)
I also do, citing Árnason again, “seek to even out the distinctions which society has created between different “academic” subjects by warning against putting too strong an emphasis on any one of them. In fiction we are used to seeing symbolism, mysticism and imagination favoured over natural science, sociology and history, only to see the relationship reversed in all “official” discourse.” My individualism, he says: “is tempered by a generous dose of scepticism that sees something useful in all discourse, regardless of its position in society, while turning everything into myths [I] can work from.”
Similarily Árnason detects and analyses the “grotesque” in my literature. I “spent” three years in 18th century Iceland, writing my first historical biography, and in that era folklore and literature still was full of the grotesque. Beasts, notes Árnason, are symbols of freedom, signifying freedom from human laws and constraints. Free creatures have an easier time dealing with the traumas life deals. The way to freedom lies in discovering man’s animalistic freedom, he says I express it for example with bird symbology. In Júlía the flight of birds inspires an idea in the mind of the narrator, indicating that animal freedom is essential to inspiration as well, to fiction, to the story:
the small birds in my yard with their pattern stretch a joyful tent across the sky. […] They sweep off in a pattern, dozens of them, together as one and suddenly turn around […] The pattern that so many free individuals form together is amazing. [They] turn my eyes around so that an idea pours into the frame of my inner eye. (p. 181)
Árnason says my style of writing is physical, in the sense that I write candidly about man’s natural needs. He cites a text where I explain how “naked” writing really is. He revels over an instance in Girl with a finger where Unnur and Jón Jakob steal the faeces from underneath farmhand Pálmi, in a grotesque act:
He acts strangely the next days. When one’s excrement disappears from underneath, men go crazy, stand up, look down, nothing, how stupid the animal feels when emptying of the guts with smell and everything seems imagination.(p. 77).
The grotesque evens out the pecking order, as another example from Girl with a finger shows. As a guide Unnur aaccompanies distinguished foreign ladies, a mother and a daughter on a riding expedition::
“The ladies have walked off out of sight and I accidentally go to the same place as they have, for the same purpose. During this brief moment as we crouch, shielded by our skirts, to answer the same need, all class divisions disappear, we are of the same species” (p. 58).
My grotesque vision, Árnason adds, includes a certain attitude towards death in my work. The grotesque makes death a part of the cycle of life, where biomass (for want of a better word) is processed and recycled. This attitude is apparent in Júlía, when four characters make a mutual agreement about what should happen to their bodies after death. They form a union around their wish to be buried without a coffin so that mourners can watch the trees and plants that their bodies turns into as they rot. I take this theme further in a recent poem called Beyond the line where I say it would “serve” humans best to be stewed into compost reviving dead forests and deserts. It is Christian to go into the ground, and keeps you in place with straight Roman lines, the coffin and the cross. There are no straight lines in nature, union is the thing, man does not need to carry a dangerous spirit that refuses to die, who roams around fettered, tortured in hell or sick with sweet ennui. All the symbolism, Dante’s whole tour of the netherworld is real and belongs to life. Heaven too.
The “positive” sides of the grotesque are the absorption of matter, through eating, and the other recreation through sex. Food and love of food have a role in my works, Árnason noted. He notices that I am as frank towards sex as towards food, death, and the discharge of excrement, it has an equally mundane role. Yet, sex is never far from love, also important to the grotesque as it generates new life. Then there is sex which hurts, he detected two rapes in my novels. When sex and love go together in my text, they render abstract the line between consciousnesses, between consciousness and nature, even between life and death. He cites an example form The White Shadow:
Of course these are sex cries, she thinks when she goes outside again and hears the cries of the birds. How stupid she has been. Beauty is in sex [...] This beauty over the Pond rises from the groin. (p. 107)
And from the beauty of birdsong there is not a big leap into the beauty of art. Maybe all creation bursts forth from the groin; indeed that could be my central teaching, says Árnason. As a humble writer I agree with his analysis. Not that my text is full of this, only as normal part of the tapestry of life.
Icelandic wombman writers:
ritstjóri Daisy L. Neijmann vol 5 af Historics of Scandinavian Literature. A History of Icelandic Literature. Helga Kress: “Searching for Herself: Female Experience and Female Tradition in Icelandic Literature.”
Helga Kress was the first literary scholar to really and openly attack the tacit agreement in the literary establishment in Iceland to bypass literature by women as if it didn´t exist. An older literary researcher Guðrún P. Helgadóttir studied womens literature through the ages and asserted that much more poetry by men survived the tooth of time. In a Nordic literature survey published in 1972 Nordens litteratur, 101 Icelandic writers living and writing 1969 are mentioned, thereof only one woman. The official canon was until the late eighties very male orientated. Of all the practicing writers in Iceland in 1984 only one was a woman. Before that time most women writers wrote with long periods of silence between books.
Svava Jakobsdottir (1930-2004) was our first fully accepted and respected female writer. She consciously and openly often surrealistically brought female undercurrents to the surface in her writing.
After the Dane’s with violence made us lutherian in 1550 the intellctual status of women declined as they didn´t have the sanctuary in the two nunneries anymore, and were thus totally excluded from official higher education. This was a step backwards, as some of our medieval literature was written by women. Research has proven that in Kirkjubæjarklaustur in the south our finest medieval annal was written by a nun, and our best worldhistory or veraldarsaga was written in the north at the nunnery at Reynistaður. Scholars tried for decades to find the splendid male calliographers who wrote mediaeval manuscripts in Skagafjörður, overseeing the obious, that there was a nunnery at Reynistaður where manuscripts were both written and copied. Scholars were blinded by the later stereotype of women only doing embroidery.
Scholars have speculated endlessly about the authors of our famous medieval Sagas. Gender scholars ofcourse lately put their sexist glasses on, facing the dilemna that medieval art is anonymous. Helga Kress and later researchers have wondered if Völuspá, the ancient most famous Edda poem about creation and fate of gods and men wasn´t originally composed and sung by a woman as in the poem the text is recited by a völva, and völva’s are feminine chanters of magic. Similarily Kress has emphasized how well Laxdæla and other sagas describe female activities, they have a female perspective, an indicatation of an author well accquainted with the feminine side of medieval life.
Through the centuries since the settlement male & female literature in Iceland survived in oral form, as ballads, lyrics, folktales, quatranes, folk songs. Both the rythms and texts of many of them clearly belong to the world of women, according to Guðni Elíasson, comparing rythms to rocking a child or spinning. A few ladies are known authors of old metrical romances and hymns perserved in manuscripts, the first printed text by a woman was a 17th century hymn. First book by a woman was a cookbook published in 1800. In 1879 our first play by a woman was staged, it was by Júlíana Jónsdóttir who also was our first poetesse with her own book of poetry. It got no response from male oriented literary circles. She understandably emigrated to America. In 1882 the first novel by a female writer, Torfhildur Hólm, was published. She wrote six novels all with historical characters. The books of our pioneer women, biographical and historical, are overburdened with information. Helga Kress has pointed out that information sort of justified their writing, it makes good sense that it´s a sign of lack of confidence in ones own original abilities.
Along with poet and playwrite Matthías Jochumson Torfhildur was the first to receive a writer’s grant from the parliament for writing, but her amount was reduced to a widows grant. She wrote, I quote via Kress: “I was the first that nature condemned to harvest those bitter fruits of the antiquated, deeply rooted prejudice against literary ladies”. But at that time the movement towards equlity of the sexes had jusst started with our first feminist newspaper article, and a womens society was soon established. Obviously here as everywhere it took a long time.
Two women magazines before 1900 helped build female writing. Understandably their focus was the limited and troubled world of women without full civil rights, drunken husbands, wretched women, children etc. A socially very radical text at that time was a female protagonist who decided to have a child out of wedlock. This ofcourse mirrored the same social struggle elsewhere in the western hemisphere. Endless 19th century novels and plays turn around similar topics, the great injustice of parents having the right to choose a marriage partner for their sons and daughters, hundreds of stories describe the pain of falling in love with someone your parents didn´t and would never accept. This huge wave of world literature in short stories, novels, and plays helped prepare the soil for sexual emancipation.
Literary emancipation and gender equality was more or less over in my immidiate world as I perceived it by the time I started to write, women before me had been there and done that, my mother and her mother. Homosexual repression was a more important target for passionate text, and repression and insensitivity towards creation in general. Humanimalism, ecology, horrors of third world poverty, repression of women in continents that lag behind, evidently the world needs the power of popular literature for a long time to come. Changing ideological landscapes takes generations, is a slow process but we are slowly getting there. Helping with the little money you have is important, paying for a few kids in Uganda so they can go to school. If we all do it, and try to be consequent in our living as well as our visions there´s hope.
I have always thought of myself as a man, with a womb for sure, and been interested in idealogy in general not gender-politics. Female repression historically belonged to a society that okeyed slavery of men too. Humanism and equal opportunities are basic rights to fight for, sexism is included, along with racism, humanimalism and so on. Politics are so repititious that mercurian people get bored very easily. There is no way I could bore myself and my readers with obvious preaching. It´s between the lines vision that counts. Undertext. Don´t forget that there is literature between every tv movie and program you see. Where there is text, there is literature.
Art is co-human and deeper than gender. I have always considered the art of writing as simlar to every other art, the key of creativity being expanding contemporary vision and experience. There is a “tree” of thought, music, prose, poetry, fashion, visual arts, theater and film. Fresh landscapes need to be created, expanding human perception. In literature you do this through style, language, imagery … new vistas are being discovered all the time and the possibilties are endless. Like drops of frozen water or snow crystals, no two are the same. 20th century experimenting rendered us rich with new tools in all the arts.
if its too long I could cut from here:
In the 19th century people devoured novels through newspapers, novels were very important in spreading new ideas. But after the World Wars western thought froze in a state of shock. All the Arts and Muses retreated into their navel to contemplate what went so horribly wrong. We realized how sick our cultural systems were and how deeply rooted in time. This called for a collapse of form in all the arts. Writers attacked the very craft of writing, just as composers did and visual artists, we broke writing down into its fundamental parts – dissected the art of writing. Literature became modernistic, an artform for the few, a plateau for experimenting, like avant garde art and philosophy. It lost touch with the masses.
Modernism in literature mirrored astrophysics: relativity and chaos theory. Books engulfed structuralist thought, seeing people as the foam on the wave of history. Writers found refuge in neoromantisism, admiring symbolism and intuition. Death of the Character was announced in literature and in the new genres of historical research, the Annal school, social and economic history.
But the ancient gallery of heros is deeply rooted in us humans and our heros just went for a long hollyday to the wild west – manuscript writers wrote them onto the movie screen. We have stories of heros in our genes, since the beginning of time … from ancient mythology, tales of chivalry, saints, sagas, Shakespeare, heros of romanticism, personal heroism of Kierkegaard and Nietsche. Modernism was just a moment in history needed to contemplate and gather strength after the horrible brakedown of western culture in the wake of the wars.
Literature has recovered as strong as ever. Modernism invented fresh tools to write with. They have and can and will be used in the future to help renew literature with a storyline and a set of characters, make it fresh, original. The masses love Hollywood but they also enjoy the unique pleasure of a good book.
Astrophysics have moved on introducing antichaos and multiverse instead of a universe. Antichaos is a storyline with a character. Multiverse allow all kinds of stories set in all kinds of worlds. With multiple emotive centers.
Individuals are more than embodiments of social discourses, we still can strife for radical existensial freedom for everybody. We are a product of our time/culture and express a cultural system but that doesn´t mean the subject needs to die.
Within a storyline with characters each and everyone can introduce his personal philosophy and attack evil cultural structures. Appriciate and use the vision of intricate cultural interrelationships that post structuralists pointed out to us. Now that we are aware of complex overlapping forms of language and power, it is easier to strife towards a new conception of truth. Healthy instincts are still repressed as Nietsche pointed out. Culture is linked to power as Foucault showed, but we can´t give up. Billions are still without basic human rights. There is an Escape from tradition. History proves it. We have to strife for maximum human autonomy. As in the past it can easily be done through literature, with a storyline and a gallery of characters.
We should always look at writing and ideas in terms of cultural traditions. Try to understand underlying conventions of thought. Accounts of reality always depend on metaphors and language, sure, but we can pull the structures, cut, weave, smoothly change the old rags hidden in our tounges. Keeping in mind post stucturalist concepts, the multiverse of many truths. Post modern interest in fragmentation thrives within a gallery of characters. Multiculturalism is very fertile. There are endless stories to tell, fresh realities, new healthy ways to shock the reader. Book anxiety is without cause. Jurgen Habermas and Vaclav Havel started a new crusade in defence of Reason, challanging Post Modernism, using key ideas from the Enlightenment: the insistence of reason in public life and the critical role of the intellectual. Personal freedom demands a socially critical intellect. We despairately need good and popular writers to help save the planet.
Thinkers looking for an alternative to deconstructionalist thought have embraced Habermas’ belief in language as a medium for rational debate. History, political theory and philosophers love the Habermas model of free speach and revival of public debates. Public debates take place in literature, and in Facebook, the 21st century version of the old french salonges. Vaclav Havel´s people power provokes all intellectuals to be publicly active in working for freedom, equality, humanism. Writers can reach a wide public through readable books. Books can be progressive and clever within the storyline. The simple can be wise and carry a spicy message.
We live in a world of individualism that merits hero worship. The masses have always loved a character and a storyline and always will, because it’s innate in humans. Don´t forget the power of Hollywood, with the ancient greek devision of drama into 30-60-30 minute sequences. Same natural structures govern a good story line.
The masses of the world need to catch up. Writers and intellectuals have to help: spread neo-enlightenment ideas through art and literature, teach realative truth, democracy, equality, emancipation, humanism. Each generation has to learn it all from scratch. That´s why the character has returned a winner.
The new novel thus comes out strong as a documentary, historical and biographical. The novel has always fed upon the biographical, the novelty is that it isn´t shy to admit it anymore. Young writers don´t care to hide that their novels are about themselves. It used to be real art of poets and writers, to carefully hide their biographical self beyond their text, while the passion and deeper truth of literature swells up from real life experiences.
In the future new forms of the Nouveau Roman will co-exist with other forms of classic styles in literature, just as in music. Every writer has the freedom to chose from old traditions finding his style and tone, as literature develops. New book bastards are blooming, using what we learned from fifty years of experimenting within relevant storylines with characters that everyman can relate to.
if its too long I could cut this far:
Good-book-literacy is spreading fast. The whole world will soon be hungry for a good reading. There will be no more decline of a good storyline with juicy fictional heros. Not until the next collapse of our civilization.
more books are produced per capita than in any other country in the world. 5/10000 Sweden 2/1000 makes me an optimist in regard to literacy.
1 SVEITIN VIÐ SUNDIN 1986. History of Reykjavík 1874-1950.
2 AF HALAMIÐUM Á HAGATORG l986. Biography.
3 SNORRI Á HÚSAFELLI 1989. Historical biography 1711-1803.
4 FUGLAR (BIRDS) 1991. Poetry.
5 JÚLÍA 1992. Science fiction.
6 (með Megasi) SÓL Í NORÐURMÝRI. Child-biographical novel.
7 HÖFUÐSKEPNUR (ELEMENTS) 1994. Novel.
8 ALDARSAGA. L. R. 1897-1997. Fyrri hluti 1997. Theater history.
9 ALVEG NÓG (ENOUGH) 1997. Novel.
10 STÚLKA MEÐ FINGUR (GIRL WITH A FINGER) 1999. (also in Swedish: Flicka med finger) Historical novel.
11 KRISTNI Á ÍSLANDI IV. Fyrri hluti 1830-1910 2000. Church history.
12 ENGIN VENJULEG KONA 2000. Biography.
13 HVÍTI SKUGGINN (BIRDS) 2001. Novel.
14 HORFINN HEIMUR 2002. Newspaper history, micro history concentrating on one year: 1900.
15 UPP Á SIGURHÆÐIR 2006. Historical biography 1835-1920.
16 KALT ER ANNARS BLÓÐ (OTHERS BLOOD IS COLD) 2007. Crime novel.
17 LOFTNET KLÓRA HIMIN (klór, klór) 2008. Poetry.
18 ANTENNAE SCRATCH SKY (scratch, scratch) 2010 (poetry from Fuglar and Loftnet, plus new poems)
19 MÖRG ERU LJÓNSINS EYRU (THE LION HAS MANY EARS) 2010. Crime novel.
20 (með Megasi) DAGUR KVENNANNA. Novelette.
biographical novel 1
historical biography: 2