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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 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

Helen Mitsios is to be congratulated on having compiled a highly readable and often entertaining miscellany of writing from a European literary culture that is still not as well known to the rest of the world as it ought to be.

Nordic Voices in Translation

This ambitious collection put out by the University of Minnesota Press is one of a kind.

The Reykjavik Graepvine

Offers a decent spectrum of Icelandic voices.

Times Literary Supplement

An excellent collection of short stories.

Tony’s Reading List

These are stories by and about Icelanders, not Iceland filtered through a tourist’s lens. These are stories of life, love, family, and the tenuous yet unbreakable connections between our ancestral pasts and our mundane presents. And while there’s something universal about those experiences, there’s also something distinctly Icelandic about it.

American Book Review

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