Strandir, Reykhólar and Dalir have long been remote settlements in Iceland. Many of the stories found in Vignettes XX concern these very settlements. There is a certain lack of common courtesy and kindliness in Reykjavík, the UNESCO city of literature and Ármann Reynisson takes a peek beneath the surface of these matters, as well as delving into many other topics along the way. There are stories from different parts of the romantic country of France, a place that possesses an elegance that few nations could top. The historical burning of Notre Dame in Paris, the undercurrents of national life and the author’s encounters with fine people from both low and high echelons of societal hierarchy, all make appearances in Vignettes XX in a variety of different circumstances.
The stories are all beautifully brought together with the unique style of the author who is both concise yet poetic, realistic and inspirational. The vignettes are ideal for reading aloud at many an occasion.
It is the calm before the storm. Shortly thereafter, flames explode through the roof of Notre Dame, rising high into the sky as if a volcanic eruption had occurred in the centre of Paris, leaving the world startled. Brave fire fighters in their dozens; heroically battle the threatening fires all night long till the following day. The roof of the cathedral goes up in smoke and turns to ashes but the stonewalls withstand the fire.
The earthy tones of the oil painting entwine in one unbroken whole and the lines distinguishing between them are unclear. That the artist gave his heart and soul to the creation of the piece of art is undeniable; art that has moved all who see it since the portrait’s creation.
The Eiffel Tower
Admiring the Eiffel Tower from a reasonable distance away reveals that there is more to it than meets the eye. There are doubtless many who never notice that this is one of the world’s most iconic, phallic structures.
Château des Gimarets
In the region of Moulin à Vent, on the border between Beaujolais and Burgundy in France, the castle, Château des Gimarets, stands for generations until it burns to the ground at the turn of the eighteenth century. The outhouse, built in 1650, escapes unscathed. Later, in 1814, a stately manor is erected of the same name. Viticulture has been practiced in the province since Roman times.
School Strike for Climate
The world is waking up from a bad dream. Specialists have been warning of global warming for some time, which threatens the very existence of human life if not reined in immediately. But this has fallen on deaf ears.
The street singer
At eighty years of age, the singer makes the streets of Marseille her home. There, Fanny Rose plans to drop dead one day in the future, singing on the docks in front of Église Saint-Ferréol les Augustins when the clock strikes exactly 12.
Obsessed with Icelandic flora
A baby is lying in a cradle, happily wriggling around wearing a light-coloured jump suit with bluebells embroidered on the breast. The father smiles as he gazes down at his boy. The incident is the first of countless perceptions in the life of Eggert Pétursson (1956), the eminent floral painter.
Prostitutes at home
It is said that prostitution, in its various guises, is the oldest profession in the history of mankind, which will never, or is unlikely to, disappear. People start selling access to their bodies for a number of reasons, most often due to financial hardship. A lover might force a person out onto the streets or into a crime ring, or a warlord might kidnap or seduce his prey and force the victim into sex slavery. The odd few sell themselves of their own free will.
Iceland’s film tycoon
On a beautiful, sunny day at the onset of summer, a respectable, darkly dressed gentleman is sitting on a bench in the botanical gardens of Laugardalur. He looks thoughtfully at the tranquil duck pond, upon which the surroundings are mirrored. To one side is a pram where his grandson sleeps. In the clear waters, Friðrik Þór Friðriksson (1954) sees his life play out as if watching a film.
From Officer to eiderdown manufacturer
From Miðhús in the countryside of Reykhóll, there is a great view over Skarðsströnd and Berufjörður, which lies to the north from Breiðafjörður. There are countless islands, skerries and islets, which look like veins leading into the fjord and put a distinctive mark on the landscape. The sea dances between them in varying ways depending on the weather and the winds. Jón Sveinsson (1955) spends his childhood years beholding this view in the formerly remote countryside location.
The Heavenly Cinema
As to be expected, the disturbance catches him off guard – the manager reveals her true nature. Before the cinema is vacated, Snorri asks: “From what family are you, manager?” “What school did you attend?” Duna has no answer and turns pale. Once outside, Snorri thanks God to have escaped from the hellhole.
A thief in the night?
Grímur is brave. He turns around and looks Sæli straight in the eye, stamps his feet on the ground, takes a deep breath and exclaims again and again at the top of his voice: “In the name of the father, the son and the holy spirit.” And he makes the sign of the cross each time over Sæli who collapses like a ragdoll.
Many go wild at the event due to heavy drinking, indecency and licentiousness. As a result, many women become pregnant and begin to raise illegitimate children nine months later – so-called dependents on the local community. Such indecency is a terrible sin and crime that the government tries to counteract at all costs – through preaching, law making and regulating. It ends in “Jörfi joy” becoming strictly prohibited by the mighty district magistrates of the province – the all-powerful.
Djúpavík in Reykjarfjörður
The road north of Strandir en route to Djúpavík winds in and out of one fjord after another, up and down slopes and along passes etched into mountainsides. There is great diversity in landscape and the close proximity to the rugged mountains is challenging at times. It seems as though the mountain ranges intend to swallow the traveller whole; he feels almost squashed between them. A sense of sorcery comes to mind at such moments, which intensifies in the mind if not controlled – IMMEDIATELY. It is not surprising that witchcraft has clung to the people of Strandir for centuries, as it still does to this day.
Now times are different. A large part of the countryside has been deserted, the social life all but collapsed, the school has closed, the priest is gone, the local doctor disappeared and the midwife has quit. In Strandir, it is like the day of yesterday.
The weather vane
Bad weather conditions can form in the valley to the northeast, which can be horrendous for people to deal with; a real hell on earth. The offending party is a weather current that comes from Ísafjarðardjúp and heads over the island of Æðey. There, the current changes course south over Glámuheiði, the power station’s basin. En route, the current gains strength and strikes down to Hofsárdalur and out to Borgarfjörður – sometimes with strong gusts of wind. When it strikes, sailors in Arnarfjörður see a black wall of fog and say Borgarfjörður looks otherworldly.
Looking at the sky
There is much excitement in the air on Saturday the 10th August, 2019 when pop sensation Ed Sheeran is due to perform at Laugardalsvöllur in Reykjavík that same evening. Fortunately, the weather is beautiful over the capital and the sun shines long into the night. The streets approaching the stadium are closed off in the afternoon whilst police direct the traffic as close to forty thousand concertgoers stream in from every direction. The city’s busses are utilised to drive a number of the attendees to their destinations. Queues stretching for kilometres through Laugardalur begin to appear from the stadium doors. Some get annoyed. Nobody is heard complaining about the extortionate ticket prices though. Even Gay Pride is delayed by a week. The concert is buzzing with life and anticipation and everybody appears to be enjoying themselves – as is to be expected.
The golden thread
In Öskjuhlíð there lives a giantess by the name of Gríma who spins golden thread into garments. She has a habit of humming the same little tune all day long whilst she works. Those who hear this song have a keen ear and are drawn to the sound. Not long past the middle of the twentieth century, Melkorka is out alone shortly before her wedding is due to take place at Reykjavík Cathedral. She comes across the giantess by pure coincidence whilst she is hard at work.