Archive for Arctic Chill

Grafarþögn

Posted in Books with tags , , , on April 23, 2011 by xi'an

During my visit to Madrid I managed to finish another book by Arnaldur Indriðason, Graforþögn (La Femme en Vert), which has been translated into English under the rather dull title of Silence of the Grave. While it is an impressive book, by its description of domestic violence and of its impact on the children and grand-children of abusive fathers, it is not exactly a detective story because there is not much in terms of police work… The book is terrifying in the spiral of physical and psychological violence suffered by the family and it is no wonder the book got several awards (Glass Key award 2003, CWA Gold Dagger 2005, Grand Prix des lectrices de Elle 2007). However, having the two stories exposed in parallel, the one of the suffering family in the 1940’s and the uncovering of the grave in the early 2000’s, reduces the plot in the current era to a spectator’s game, the reader being aware of much more than the policemen conducting the inquiry, and suspecting in particular that the body slowly unearthed by the archaeologists can only be one of two members of this doomed family… I must say I preferred Arctic Chill, especially because of the vision it gave of the contemporary Icelandic society, but this novel Graforþögn also contains insights about an older, more rural and just as cruel, Iceland that WWII was going to change so radically.

Vetrarborgin

Posted in Books with tags , , , , , on August 15, 2010 by xi'an

In the plane to Vancouver (flying over Iceland and Greenland), I read Arnaldur Indriðason book called Arctic Chill (Vertraborgin in Icelandic). Indriðason has written several highly popular crime stories (if one judges by the number of prizes his books got) but this was my first book of his’.

I found the style very appealing if rather bleak, maybe reflecting the depressing conditions of the part of the Icelandic society described in Arctic Chill. The main detective Erlendur mixes his police search for the murderer of a young Thai boy with a soul search about his failure to save his brother a long while ago during a snowstorm—the passage about the horse slowly taken by the quicksands made a very strong impression on me—. He also keeps pondering about whether relationships started on deceit can survive for long. As said above, the atmosphere is highly depressing, peopled with single mothers striving to get enough for their family (this was written before the financial crisis!), absent or reluctant fathers, rundown housing, and societal split about immigration. The solution to the murder is quite unexpected and could feel like a cheat, except that it does not! The sheer absurdity of the conditions for this murder, the autistic role played by the parents, all this conveys a strong message about a lack of moral sense at the family as well as at the society level. The reflections about the difficult integration of Asian immigrants into a very small and isolated society made me think of the related Rankin‘s equally impressive Fleshmarket Close, even though Arctic Chill is more intimate and psychological. The title Arctic Chill also translates the constant feeling of cold, wind and terrible weather conveyed by the book. Fighting the cold and the elements seems to be taking a heavy toll on the characters’ resilience… In conclusion, a very good novel going beyond the usual rules of the genre, preferably read on a sunny afternoon (as opposed to a chilly and bleak December evening!)