Theater of Cruelty

Iceland's debater

We know him from 101 Reykjavik, but for the Icelanders he is the author who creates fresh social debate.


[storyteller] In Norway, Hallgrímur Helgason is best known from the book and later the film 101 Reykjavik, about the everyday life of a young and rootless man in the Icelandic capital. His latest book Rokland (Stormland) is now nominated for the Nordic Council Literature Prize for 2007. In Iceland, however, he created rebellion and horror when in 2001 he wrote the book Höfundur Íslands, which in the autumn came in Norwegian under the title Iceland's author.

The protagonist is an old man who looks back on his life, and the book is written a few years after the national caller Halldór Laxness died.

- I had a dream about an old man who was lying in a remote valley, and this boy who pricked the old man in the corner of the mouth. I discovered that the old man was Halldór Laxness, and the boy is one of the characters in one of his books. That was the start of what became Iceland's author, says Hallgrímur Helgason to Ny Tid.

This scene is also the beginning of the book.

Helgason is one of Iceland's foremost writers and debaters, and is also a recognized artist and cartoonist. Helgason says that for him, Laxness is like a grandfather he looks up to.

- I do not think Icelandic writers who are a little older than me, could have done this with the author who has had such great significance for my country. Although I have great respect for Laxness, and treat him well in the book, I believe that we can not treat him as a shrine that must not be touched and discussed.

In his regular column in the newspaper Frettablaðið he is happy to gain momentum in the Icelandic debate with his plays. He has criticized the Icelandic authorities for everything from their participation in the Iraq war to restarting whaling.

- I want to point out what I experience as challenges in our society, says the author, who in 2002 wrote a post that made former Prime Minister David Oddsson call and ask him to show up at the Prime Minister's office to answer for himself.

- It was a special experience. I pointed out that Oddsson ruled Iceland as a monarch, who paid no attention to anyone but his own, and that he used the police to investigate his private enemies. The post created debate, and people began to look at Oddsson's regime differently. People were afraid of Oddsson as the Russians are afraid of Putin, says Helgason.

After the following election, David Oddsson had to enter into an agreement with the coalition parties, which led him to resign as prime minister and leave politics two years later.

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