Ten residents of the West Fjords have written an open letter to municipal authorities in Ísafjörður, lamenting the fact that they are required to wear bathing suits in the town’s Finnish sauna. Seven of them are Finns.
The letter, published on bb.is, bears the heading, “Open Letter Due to Swim Suit Insanity.”
The writers of the letter see the requirement to cover their private parts as a complete lack of interest in adapting to the cultures of other nations. To demonstrate their point, they write, “In order to be a good German cook, it doesn’t suffice to do one’s best cooking the sauerkraut and the schnitzel; you must do the same with the falafel and the paella.”
The sauna is reserved for men four days a week, three for women, (“the equality is no more than in society in general,”) so indecent exposure is out of the question.
The letter writers see the sauna as a holy place, where women used to bear children, wounds were healed, problems solved and the dead remembered. In Finland, it’s called the poor man’s drug store.
Eiríkur Örn Norðdahl. Photo: Páll Stefánsson
Finns have a saying, “In the sauna you act as you would in a church.” The only difference, the letter states, is that you dress up for church but in the sauna, you dress as you would in the Garden of Eden.
The requirement to cover your body with bacteria-filled clothing is described as a “severe insult against the cultural and social space of the sauna, comparable to Finns’ being instructed to spread ketchup on their tray of þorri food.”
The residents request that they be allowed to remove their clothes before entering the sauna, “in the name of culture, sanitation, society and sanctuary.”
One of the letter writers is no other than Eiríkur Örn Norðdahl, one of Iceland’s literary stars. He won the Icelandic Literary Prize in 2012 for his novel Illska ( Evil).