The 2015 Reykjavik Reads Festival is dedicated to the voices of women. A special focus will be on the works of the writer Svava Jakobsdóttir (1930-2004), who would have turned 85 on October 4th this year. She will be accompanied by multiple voices of women in Icelandic literature past and present.
The festival carries the title of Svava Jakobsdóttir short story collection, Sögur handa öllum (Stories for Everyone). This is a collection of three of Svava‘s books of short stories, published by Forlagið Publishing on the occasion of the festival.
Svava is one of Iceland’s leading contemporary authors and her short stories, often depicting the lives of women, hold a special place in Icelandic literature. Her first work of fiction was the short story collection Tólf konur (Twelve Women), published in 1965. She wrote short stories, novels and plays for theatre, radio and television. She also wrote a number of longer and shorter articles for magazines and newspapers, and produced radio programs. Her works have been translated into many languages, and her plays have also been staged abroad. Many of her best known stories appear in Englihs translations in the book The Lodger and Other Stories, published in 2000. Svava lectured and presented her own work for various foreign accociations, as well as literature departments at the universities of Bergen in 1979, Oslo in 1979 and 1988, London in 1984, Freiburg in 1987 and Amsterdam, 1988.
Read more about Svava Jakobsdóttir and her work here on literature.is
Excerpt from „A Story for Children“ (1967, transl. Dennis Auburn Hill 2000, in The Lodger and Other Stories)
The doors opened and all the children crowded into the kitchen. Stjáni, the oldest, was in the lead. At an early age he had shown an admirable interest in both human and animal biology. (…) They formed a semicircle around her and she looked over each of them one after the other.
„Mama, we want to see what a person‘s brain looks like.“
„Right now?“ she asked.
Stjáni didn‘t answer his mother‘s question. With a nod of his head and a sharp glance he gave his younger brother a signal, and the younger brother went and got a rope, while Stjáni fastened the saw blade to the handle. The rope was then wrapped around the mother. She felt little hands fumbling at her back while the knot was tied. The rope was loose and it wouldn‘t take much effort to get free. But she was careful not to let it be noticed. He had always been sensitive about how clumsy he was with his hands.
Just as Stjáni raised the saw up to her head the image of the children‘s father came into her mind. She pictured him just as he would appear in a little while: on the threshold of the front door with his briefcase in one hand and his hat in the other. (…) He would come home soon and she still hadn‘t started frying the fish. The blood had now begun to flow down her head. Stjáni had gotten through with the saw. It seemed to be going well, and fairly quickly. Now and then he stopped as if he were measuring with his eyes just how big the hole had to be. Blood spurted into his face and a curse crossed his lips. He jerked his head and the younger brother went immediately and got the mop bucket. They placed it under the hole and soon it was half full. The procedure was over at the exact moment that the father appeared in the doorway. He stood motionless for a while pondering the scene before him: his wife tied up, with a hole in her head, the eldest son holding a gray brain in his hand, the curious group of children crowded together, and only one pot on the stove.
„Kids! How can you think of doing this at supper time?“
He picked up the piece of his wife‘s skull and snapped it back in just as she was about to bleed to death. Then he took over and soon the children were busy tidying up after themselves. He wiped most of the bloodstains off the walls himself before he checked on the pot on the stove. There was a suspicious sound coming from it. The water had boiled away and he took the pot off the stove and set it on the metal counter next to the sink. When he saw the half-cleaned fish in the sink he realised that his wife had still not gotten up from the chair. Puzzled, he frowned. It wasn‘t usual for her to be sitting down when there was so much to do. He went over and looked at her closely. He noticed then that they had forgotten to untie her.
When he had freed her the parents looked into each other‘s eyes and smiled. Never was their harmony more deeply felt than when their eyes met in mutual pride over the children.
„Silly runts,“ he said, and his voice was filled with the concern and affection that he felt for his family.