Archive for Iceland noir

a journal of the plague and pestilence year [stop the war!]

Posted in Books, Kids, Mountains, pictures, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 31, 2022 by xi'an

Still standing, impotent, facing Ukrainian cities shelled by Russian bombs…

Read the third & last volume of Arnaldur Indriðason‘s Inspector Konrad new trilogy, Tregasteinn, with no further enthusiasm… There are even more repetitions than in the previous volumes, including recaps from these previous volumes. If this is a literary style, it should be discontinued! If the author thinks the reader has trouble remembering what he wrote a few pages earlier, he should think again. If the author himself cannot remember what he wrote, this is worrying..! Also read Spinning silver by Naomi Novak, a mix of Eastern Europe tales, like Rumpelstiltskin, and of centuries of anti-Semitic persecutions, from a feminist viewpoint where all leading characters are women. While the book has been praised and nominated for the Nebula and the Hugo awards, and won the Locus award,I found it hard to keep up with the rather thin story and fell asleep while the characters were taking yet another sleigh among a fantasy version of Russia or Ukraine… Speaking of whi(t)ch(es):

Watched Juvenile Justice, a 2022 very dark and graphic Korean series on judges in charge of juvenile delinquents. The story is a wee bit thin and the many connections between the characters a cheap trick, with long static shots of the main judge lost in her thoughts and endless passages about her annotating mountains of reports on the case, but the resulting zoom on the judicial procedure and on the harsh penal system make it worth watching.

a journal of the plague and pestilence year

Posted in Books, Kids, Mountains, pictures, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 19, 2022 by xi'an

Hard to concentrate on anything while a European capital is besieged and shelled by Russia… The second horseman of the apocalypse (representing War) has joined the first one (called Pestilence).

Read the hiking story, L’île-montagne, written by Gilles Modica on his n-th traverse of Corsica, from South to North, of the mythical GR20 hiking trail. A gift from Florence at my p-th birthday party, after she spotted my blog entry on my few hours on that trail… While the author does not appear there as a particularly sympathique personnage, with a common form of mountaineering elitism, the call of the mountains and the intrinsic and wild beauty of the trail is undeniable. Renewing my desire to hike more of it. And the story is full of fascinating historical tidbits. As with so many mountain books, it reads better with a detailed map at one’s side, unless one is already familiar with every rock and every cow on the GR20. (There is a map at the start, but partial maps on the margin would have been more helpful. Esp. for a top quality editor like Guérin.) I also went quickly through two volumes of Arnaldur Indriðason‘s Inspector Konrad new trilogy, The Darkness knows and The Girl by the Bridge, in their French translation. Ending up rather disappointed with a feeling of déjà vu. For the first one, the themes of Indriðason are there (impact of the second World War, poverty, domestic violence, childhood memories, icefields). With the added annoyance of seeing the same events reported twice within a few pages. For the second, it brought back the memory of walking in the downtown Reykjavik cemetery, a few years ago, in less dramatic circumstances, but otherwise, I found the scenario rather lazy and the resolution predictable. With an added touch of supernatural, which I do not appreciate at all outside fantasy books!

Watched All of Us Are Dead, a (of course!) Korean zombie series.  At first as a way to temporarily escape the anxiogenic influx of horrific news from Ukraine with a brainless diversion… Despite my general reluctance for zombie movies. And then for the powerful satire behind the story! The construction of the network of the few teenagers escaping their former colleagues indeed proves rather efficient, with the characters growing into several dimensions, if the scenario is overly stretched, and too prompt to sacrificing a member of the group when tension goes down. Incl. some most unexpectedly, scenario-wise… But it remains biting, humorous, moving at times, full of references to the Korean zombie culture (incl. many to Last train for Busan) and the shortcomings of a competitive and inegalitarian society…

Reykjavik nights [book review]

Posted in Books, Travel with tags , , , , , , , , on March 26, 2016 by xi'an

While this is the latest book in the Erlendur series by Icelandic author Arnaldur Indriðason, Reykjavik Nights [or Reykjavíkurnætur] is also the earliest in the chronology of the series since it relates to the first years of Erlendur in the Icelandic police and to murders that took place in 1974 in Reykjavik. The book may appeal mostly to those who have already read (the) other books in the series, as it explains very little about Erlendur’s past and the reasons he is so fascinated by missing persons. It is however a great read, despite or thanks to very little action when touring the nights of Reykjavik and arresting drunks weekend after weekend. (There is a slight interlude when Erlendur takes part in policing the 1100 anniversary celebrations of the settlement of Iceland at Þingvellir where the Alþing, the original Icelandic parliament stood.) Actually, I find the detective part less than convincing but it hardly matters since the development of the character of Erlendur is very well conducted. With a constant focus throughout the series on themes like domestic violence and drunkenness. A very pleasant read.

Einvígið [book review]

Posted in Books, Kids, Mountains, pictures, Travel with tags , , , , , , , , on August 17, 2015 by xi'an

Reykjavik2In Roissy (De Gaulle) airport, prior to catching my flight to Seattle, I noticed a “new” Indriðason‘s novel, Le Duel (Einvígið), that has not yet been translated into English. But just translated into French! This is a most unusual novel in the Erlendur series, in that the central character of the series only appears as a young cop in the final lines of the novel. Instead, the mentor of Erlendur, Marion Biem, is conducting an inquiry as to who had killed a young man in an almost empty Reykjavik cinema. Where almost all spectators seemed to have something to hide, if not always a murder… A classical whodunnit?! Not really because this happens in 1972, during the famous Fisher-Spassky duel, and that duel is unrelated to the murder, while the Icelandic police seems overwrought by the event and the presence of Russian and American double-agents in Reykjavik…

I found the whole exercise interesting, creating a sort of genealogy in the Erlendur series, with Marion’s mentor playing a side role and his early training in Glasgow (of all places!), with the re-creation of a 1972 Iceland and the chess match between Fisher and Spassky at the height of the Cold War. Plus a reminder about the tuberculosis epidemics of the 1930’s, where  The detective side of the novel is however less convincing than usual, with clues and fingerprints appearing at the most convenient times. And a fairly convoluted resolution. Still worth reading, especially on a long flight!

Mýrin aka Jar City [book review]

Posted in Books, Mountains, pictures, Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , on July 26, 2015 by xi'an

Mýrin (“The Bog”) is the third novel in the Inspector Erlendur series written by Arnaldur Indridason. It contains the major themes of the series, from the fascination for unexplained disappearances in Iceland to Elendur’s inability to deal with his family responsibilities, to domestic violence, to exhumations. The death that starts the novel takes place in the district of Norðurmýri, “the northern marsh”, not far from the iconic Hallgrimskirkja, and not far either from DeCODE, the genetic company I visited last June and which stores genetic information about close to a million Icelanders, the Íslendingabók. And which plays an important and nefarious role in the current novel. While this episode takes place mostly between Reykjavik and Keflavik, hence does not offer any foray into Icelandic landscapes, it reflects quite vividly on the cultural pressure still present in the recent years to keep rapes and sexual violence a private matter, hidden from an indifferent or worse police force. It also shows how the police misses (in 2001) the important genetic clues for being yet unaware of the immense and frightening possibilities of handling the genetic code of an entire population. (The English and French titles refer to the unauthorised private collections of body part accumulated [in jars] by doctors after autopsies, families being unaware of the fact.) As usual, solving the case is the least important part of the story, which tells about broken lifes and survivors against all odds.

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