Maybe because there are so few Icelanders in the world, we know next to nothing about them. We assume they are more or less Scandinavian—a gentle people who just want everyone to have the same amount of everything. They are not. They have a feral streak in them, like a horse that’s just pretending to be broken.
Thursday, 19 March 2009
Importing the Future
As translator of Icelandic author Ólafur Gunnarsson's prescient novel Miljón Prósent Menn (Million Percent Men, 1978), a book which was written well over 30 years ago and foretells the business and banking "revolution" in Iceland which recently brought the country more or less to its knees, I was intrigued to read Michael Lewis's mammoth essay on the collapse of Iceland's economy in the recent issue of Vanity Fair. Unlike some other U.S. journalists who have covered the Icelandic financial crisis, Lewis has actually spent a reasonable amount of time in Iceland, and has got to know some of the characteristics of this nation, which stands out from the other Nordic countries in several notable aspects. Lewis makes some shrewd comments on Icelandic society and culture, especially with regard to the deep divide between men and women that is typical of them, and also has some surprisingly on-target aperçus on the subject of the national character: