Miss Iceland by Audur Ava Ólafsdóttir
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Featured on The Thread: 'Miss Iceland' is a subdued, powerful portrait of a suppressed society
Iceland in the 1960s. Hekla always knew she wanted to be a writer. In a nation of poets, where each household proudly displays leatherbound volumes of the Sagas, and there are more writers per capita than anywhere else in the world, there is only one problem: she is a woman.
After packing her few belongings, including James Joyces’s Ulysess and a Remington typewriter, Hekla heads for Reykjavik with a manuscript buried in her bags. She moves in with her friend Jon, a gay man who longs to work in the theatre, but can only find dangerous, backbreaking work on fishing trawlers. Hekla’s opportunities are equally limited: marriage and babies, or her job as a waitress, in which harassment from customers is part of the daily grind. The two friends feel completely out of place in a small and conservative world.
And yet that world is changing: JFK is shot and hemlines are rising. In Iceland another volcano erupts and Hekla meets a poet who brings to light harsh realities about her art. Hekla realizes she must escape to find freedom abroad, whatever the cost.
Miss Iceland is a novel of extraordinary poise and masterful acuity from one of our most celebrated Icelandic writers.