Gold Mine

Reviews

Gold Mine

Review by Páll Stefánsson.

“Bernard Scudder was a poet and the most gifted translator of Icelandic literature into English,” starts Joe Allard in his introduction to Icelandic Poetry (c.870-2007) in translations of Bernard Scudder selected, edited and introduced by Joe Allard & Sigrún Á. Eiríksdóttir.

And there is nothing more to say.

I was so lucky to work with Bernard Scudder (1954-2007) for a couple of years, twenty years ago.

Born in Canterbury, he read English literature at York University. In 1977, he went to study the Icelandic language at Reykjavík University, after which he worked as a reporter, and deputy editor for Iceland Review magazine for a couple of years. Later he became member of the editorial team that produced the Complete Sagas of Icelanders in English translation in 1997.

In addition to his medieval translations, Bernard had a passion for contemporary poetry and fiction. His translations of prizewinning novels included Þór Vilhjálmsson’s Justice Undone (1995), Guðbergur Bergsson’s The Swan (1997), Einar Már Guðmundsson’s Angels of the Universe (1995) and Þórarinn Eldjárn’s The Blue Tower (1999). He also translated the works of Arnaldur Indriðason.

What surprised me the most, working with Bernard, was that he spoke better Icelandic than I did, a native Icelander, after only seven years in Iceland.

He was a poet, a good poet, and in between works he translated Icelandic poems—for fun it seemed. And now at last, after his sudden death, the book Icelandic Poetry (c.870-2007) is out.

icelandic_poetry_book_cover

The book is a gem to all those who like poetry or Icelandic culture.

The first poem in the book is from c.870, The Prophecy (Völuspá) Eddic Poetry by Anonymous.

A hearing I ask

of all humankind,

the higher and lower

kin of Heimdall;

They, Father of the Fallen,

wanted me to recount

the ancient deeds of heroes

I recall from time’s dawn.

The last poem is The Trap Snaps Shut (Gildran lokast) from 2007, by Sveinn Snorri Sveinsson

....Then I smiled back

When I was about

to release his hand

and proceed on my way

the devil grinned

and told me to wait a minute

he squeezed, and I

winced.

There are 1,137 years between these poems—and you have hundreds more in this great book of close to 400 pages of wisdom, fun, and God.

This book is good.

Stars? One, not stars, but a sun.

Icelandic Poetry (c.870-2007) was published by Saga Forlag ehf. in 2012 and is available for purchase at shopicelandic.com and amazon.com.

Páll Stefánsson - ps@icelandreview.com

More Reviews

Reykjavík Walks book cover

Books

Reykjavík Walks

By Emilía S. Ólafs...

In Reykjavík Walks, Icelandic historian Guðjón Friðriksson guides you around the streets of downtown Reykjavík.

Vatnagarpar_cover

Books

Vatnagarpar – A Book about Water Heroes

By Dagmar Trodler

The trilingual book Vatnagarpar (‘Water Heroes’) by Jens Einarsson documents the journey of eight riders and their horses in words and photos, crossing 17 glacial rivers while following in the footsteps of Icelandic mailmen of times past.

Gnarr! book cover

Books

Gnarr!

By Laura Nicholson

Former Reykjavík mayor, Jón Gnarr, gives a candid inside look into his personal and political life in his memoir.