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Out of the Blue

New Short Fiction from Iceland

2017

Edited by Helen Mitsios
Foreword by Sjón

Out of the Blue

A groundbreaking collection of fiction from Iceland’s best contemporary authors

Out of the Blue is the first anthology of Icelandic short fiction published in English translation and features work by twenty of Iceland’s most popular and celebrated living authors. The collection transports readers to Iceland’s timeless and magical island of Vikings and geographical wonders, promising to be a seminal collection that will define Icelandic literature in translation for decades to come.

Out of the Blue reads like a series of lively dreams, by turns magical and stoic and strange, and each sensational. It's no surprise these stories come from the land of Halldor Laxness. He has an heir in these pages.

Peter Geye, author of Wintering

This extraordinary collection, the first anthology of Icelandic short fiction published in English translation, features work by twenty of Iceland’s most popular and celebrated living authors—including Andri Snær Magnason, Jón Kalman Stefánsson, Kristín Ómarsdóttir, and Auður Jónsdóttir—granddaughter of Halldór Laxness, who won the 1955 Nobel Prize in Literature.

Celebrated in Europe and Scandinavia but less known in the English-speaking world, these writers traverse realms of darkness and light that will be familiar to readers who have fallen under the spell of Scandinavian fiction. While uniquely Icelandic in topography and tenor, with a touch of the island’s supernatural charm, the stories traffic in the enduring and universal complexities of human nature. Here is a fictional universe where the ghosts of Vikings and spirits tread, volcanoes grumble underfoot, and writers trip the Northern Lights fantastic across the landscape of the Icelandic imagination.

At long last, readers can enjoy award-winning stories now expertly rendered into English by the country’s most renowned translators. In “Killer Whale” a father contemplates euthanasia for a terminally ill child, in “Self Portrait” a vacationing family in Spain crosses paths with migrants, in “Escape for Men” a woman searches for an ex-lover in the South of France, and in “The Most Precious Secret” the nature of artists and the art world is mercilessly revealed. Both the Viking myths of Iceland’s forefathers and the cutting-edge modern world of the country today are brilliantly alive in these remarkable and original stories.

This collection is an excursion to an island where almost two million travelers descend yearly on a population of 345 thousand natives. Iceland is the place Björk calls home, the location where Game of Thrones was filmed—a place with open lava fields, glaciers, and iceberg lagoons among other natural wonders that is becoming one of the “hottest” tourist destinations on earth.

Out of the Blue transports readers to Iceland’s timeless and magical island of Vikings and geographical wonders, and it promises to be a seminal collection that will define Icelandic literature in translation for decades to come.

Contributors: Auður Ava Olafsdóttir, Kristín Eiríksdóttir, Þórarinn Eldjárn, Gyrðir Elíasson, Einar Örn Gunnarsson, Ólafur Gunnarsson, Einar Már Guðmundsson, Auður Jónsdóttir, Gerður Kristný, Andri Snær Magnason, Óskar Magnússon, Bragi Ólafsson, Kristín Ómarsdóttir, Óskar Árni Óskarsson, Magnús Sigurðsson, Jón Kalman Stefánsson, Ágúst Borgþór Sverrisson, Guðmundur Andri Thorsson, Þórunn Erlu-Valdimarsdóttir, Rúnar Helgi Vignisson.

Out of the Blue

Helen Mitsios is a poet, author, literary critic, and editor of the groundbreaking anthologies New Japanese Voices: The Best Contemporary Fiction from Japan, which was twice listed both as a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice and “Summer Reading” selection; also Digital Geishas and Talking Frogs: The Best Short Stories from Japan; and most recently Beneath the Ice: An Anthology of Contemporary Icelandic Poetry. An award-winning poet, she is author of If Black Had a Shadow and coauthor of Waltzing with the Enemy: A Mother and Daughter Confront the Aftermath of the Holocaust. She is a professor of languages and literature at Touro College and University System in New York City.

Sjón is an award-winning Icelandic author whose novels The Blue Fox, The Whispering Muse, From the Mouth of the Whale, and Moonstone: The Boy Who Never Was have been translated into thirty-five languages. Also a poet, he has published nine poetry collections, written four opera librettos and lyrics for various artists. In 2001 he was nominated for an Oscar for his lyrics in the film Dancer in The Dark. Sjón is the president of the Icelandic PEN Centre. He lives in Reykjavik.

Out of the Blue

Out of the Blue reads like a series of lively dreams, by turns magical and stoic and strange, and each sensational. It's no surprise these stories come from the land of Halldor Laxness. He has an heir in these pages.

Peter Geye, author of Wintering

Out of the Blue is a collection of Iceland’s leading contemporary writers and all my favorite authors in one volume. It’s an absolutely unique insight into the Iceland's culture, mentality, and spirit—a country where the short story is as valued as the Sagas. If you plan to travel to Iceland and want to prepare, all you need to do is read this book.

Jón Gnarr, writer and former mayor of Reykjavík

Perhaps it is because philosophy reached these shores comparatively late that Icelandic writers have never felt bound by the truth. While recognizing no literature except that which springs from reality, they reserve the right to distort the truth according to the demands of their tales.

Sjón, from the Foreword

Out of the Blue

Contents
Foreword: Four Fragments from Reflections on Icelandic Narrative Arts
Sjón
Introduction
Helen Mitsios
Self-Portrait
Auður Jónsdóttir
Afternoon by the Pacific Ocean
Kristín Ómarsdóttir
Escape for Men
Gerður Kristný
The Most Precious Secret
Einar Örn Gunnarsson
Killer Whale
Ólafur Gunnarsson
The Secret Raven Service and Three Hens
Þórunn Erlu-Valdimarsdóttir
One Hundred Fifty Square Meters
Kristín Eiríksdóttir
Grass
Andri Snær Magnason
The Black Dog
Gyrðir Elíasson
Late Afternoon in Four Parts
Bragi Ólafsson
SMS from Catalonia
Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir
A Pen Changes Hands
Óskar Árni Óskarsson
The Cook
Óskar Magnússon
Travel Companion
Rúnar Vignisson
Three Parables
Magnús Sigurðsson
The Horse in Greenland
Einar Már Guðmundsson
Laundry Day
Ágúst Borgþór Sverrisson
Scorn Pole
Þórarinn Eldjárn
Harmonica Sonata in C Major
Guðmundur Andri Thorsson
The Universe and the Deep Velvet Dress
Jón Kalman Stefánsson
Contributors