In recent years, a number of immigrants have settled in Iceland from all over the world. There are portrait stories of a few of them in Vignettes XVIII, exploring their different reasons for coming to Iceland and how their lives in the new country have progressed. In addition, there are portrait stories of some of the nation’s pioneers in various fields who are among many of the intriguing characters that Ármann Reynisson has encountered along life’s journey. There are also stories about the interaction between people in day-to-day life and contemporary issues are also addressed. Eyjafjörður is one of Iceland’s most flourishing regions and has long been leading the way in regards to agriculture, fishing, culture and in a number of innovative techniques. Many vignettes in the book are connected to this part of the country.
The author’s unique style is well utilised; he is both concise but poetic, realistic and illuminating. The vignettes are ideal for reading aloud at many an occasion.
The sign of the cross
After the Second World War, a cold war breaks out between East and West; an arms race ensues and with it, comes the fear that a nuclear war is imminent. Eastern Europe is under the thumb of the Soviet Union. But the Kremlin hardliners soften under Gorbachev’s rule and relations between the world powers begin to thaw. In the Baltic States there are heightened demands for freedom, which leads to Lithuania declaring independence in 1990 while Estonia and Latvia await further
developments. Western states cower from recognizing Lithuania’s independence for fear of offending rulers in Moscow.
The opera singer
For the first two years in West Germany, Sieglinde works on various farms. She sails into the Music University of Stuttgart and receives a grant for her studies. At night she works at a chocolate factory to make ends meet but in spite of this her education is a walk in the park. Good fortune follows Sieglinde through all her difficulties – her sights always firmly set on the future. Upon graduation, the lyrical soprano opera singer signs a contract with the National Opera of Stuttgart. There she falls in love with a promising young tenor by the name of Sigurður
Björnsson from Iceland. Their life together is intertwined with the best the music world has to offer in Central Europe and in the opera houses of Kassel, Gradz and Münich.
Slowly but surely Adem loses his feelings for his parents. He protects his sisters since his brother runs away from the home. As a teenager he likes drawing and at the age of fifteen he is discharged from the home and sent out into the unknown. Adem lives on the street for two years, getting building work every now and then. To get his life on track, the gifted man joins the Special Forces. There he plans to make his fame and fortune. After a short stay in the training camps, a horrendous civil war breaks out, which eventually splinters Yugoslavia into six separate
nations. It is to become a terrible life experience for the soldier witnessing the misery that unfolds. At the end of a three-year period in hell on earth, an experience that fractures his personality, Adem leaves the army and spends some time in Belgrade in the building industry. After a few years away, he returns to his native lands, which now belongs to modern-day Bosnia and Herzegovina. There is nothing but disintegration and chaos.
There has long been a military presence in Afghanistan. The people and armies of two empires have waged war across the length and breadth of the country. Many are forced to flee, destitute, across the borders to neighbouring countries. Their reception is often cold and civil rights are non-existent. They are regarded as second-class citizens, prohibited from leaving the areas in which they live, with minimal medical services available and limited schooling. The struggle for
survival is hard with only poorly paid cash-in-hand work available. The underground black market prospers. The majority of their descendants are stateless and it is difficult to get a passport from the country of origin. The refugees are between a rock and a hard place. Life becomes a slow road towards death.
Slowly but surely, the helicopter takes off and cruises low over the spectacular highlands of the country. The bow-shaped volcanic crater Askja comes into view, the water within it glistening as if it has been sprinkled with silver. Close by is Herðubreið, the Queen of the mountains, which has an amorous air about it. The helicopter ascends and then lands on top of the mountain. “Are you serious?” cries Hulda, astonished – not knowing whether she is coming or going. The couple
make themselves comfortable on a patch of vegetation atop the barren mountain upon which they lay Davíð’s mother’s hand-sewn tablecloth. An exquisite bottle of Krug Champagne is opened with a pop of the cork. They raise their crystal glasses and make a toast while enjoying confectionary by Hafliði Ragnarsson, the Master of Chocolate himself. After a short while, Davíð goes down on one knee and says to Hulda: “Will you accept this gold ring?” A weak yes can barely be heard but she repeats loudly and clearly. Davíð places the ring on her finger as he cries, caught up in the emotion. Then Hulda repeats the ceremony with similar wording and the couple become engaged with only the Almighty and nature as their witnesses. After the unpretentious ceremony, the couple sit down in an emotional state, hold hands and look out across the dazzlingly beautiful landscape. The faint sound of the wind can be heard, otherwise there is nothing to intrude on the moment.
At the bottom of the fjord, there lives a magnificent dragon, the protector of the North. He is sometimes seen slithering through the fjord like the Northern Lights with a flaming red tongue and piercing spherical eyes. The dragon has only managed to protect the western part of the fjord from the designs of international buyers. They go to any lengths to suck the life out of the country with their heavy industries. And the same goes for foreign investors who buy up the land and
nobody knows in whose hands it ends up.
There is a large elf settlement on the seafront and there is a stony beach with rocky cliffs at its base. It is breathtaking to see the ocean break upon the cliffs with all its might. When the weather is good and the sea drains out, it becomes home to the mermaid Hafrún and the merman Sævar. The couple each has their own special rounded stone to sit on when they come up out of the ocean to relax and meditate. When they feel like it, they might communicate with people
whether through images or sounds.