Utne Blogs > Literature

A Social History of Iceland

 by Michael Rowe


Tags: Great Writing, The Economist, The Second Pass, Iceland, history,

snowstorm

If all you know about Iceland are its unpronounceable, un-spellable volcanoes, the musician Björk, and the fact that it’s near Greenland (but not as icy), then maybe you should read a bloodcurdling social history of the island nation. The Economist has a short and sweet (or maybe not-so-sweet?) review, which includes this choice passage:

The story is not wholly pleasant. Even readers with strong stomachs will find them tested. The book opens with an account of a man who rips his own testicles off with a cord after a tantrum involving allegations of infidelity. The pressure-cooker of emotions induced by isolation (the road round the island was completed only in 1974) dispel any stereotypes of Nordic stolidity. The dank squalor of the turf-built hovels in which most Icelanders lived is described with disconcerting relish, along with the suppurating sores, stoically borne, that resulted. Clothes were boiled in urine occasionally, but were otherwise worn without washing.

Sounds relaxing.

(Thanks, The Second Pass.)

Source: The Economist 

Image by Atli Harðarson, licensed under Creative Commons.