This is the second part of my interview with Séð Og Heyrt magazine (part one here)
I see you’ve read a lot of books on Iceland or even Icelandic literature. Which are your favorite books and why?
My favourite Icelandic author is Arnaldur Indriðason. He truly has a dark imagination, and he has also made a really compelling character in Detective Erlendur. I’m desperate to find out what really happened to his brother in that snowstorm! Unfortunately we are always a couple of books behind you in English translation. I tend to save up Icelandic books for a while before reading them as it makes them feel like more of a treat. I’m currently reading Burial Rites by Hannah Kent, which is a rare thing, a book about Iceland written by a foreigner.
What do you think of Icelandic TV and films?
They are a great way to find out more about Iceland. My first introduction to Icelandic TV was Næturvaktin, which BBC4 showed in the UK. I then had to immediately order the rest of that series to see what happened to these guys. Icelandic films and TV mix humour with sadness very well. Reading the subtitles also helps you to pick up some Icelandic words.
I’m currently watching Norð Vestur, about the Flateyri avalanche. I must also mention that Icelandair always has great Icelandic content on their channels. The short films in particular are always worth watching!
I also like listening to Icelandic radio at home, it’s a great way to feel like you are actually still in Iceland.
Do you have a favorite place in Iceland?
I love Reykjavík of course – all the benefits of a big city with none of the hassles, at least as a visitor. I also love Ísafjörður which has a real frontier feel to it. How can you not love a place that is only accessed by tunnels? In terms of nature I particularly like the beach at Jokulsarlon and the clear water at Þingvallavatn. I love animals and was lucky enough to see an arctic fox at Skaftafell and there are always so many interesting birds to see.
Where are you from and in what way is Iceland different from your country?
I live in England, which in some ways is easier to live in than Iceland – there’s more choice in everything, the weather is less extreme and it’s also easier to get around. Of course the downside is we have more crowds, and traffic. English people love to apologise and to complain about everything, and there is almost a stigma of being proud of what is great about living here.
Would you like to live in Iceland or is it more of a vacation location?
Can I say both? I’d love to have a second home/apartment in Iceland and also have a way of having more time to spend in Iceland to enjoy it.
What do you think of Icelandic food?
In Iceland I always end up eating too much junk food because it’s cheaper! I love Icelandic chocolate (particularly dark chocolate with liquorice and Buffalø bars). I have been amazed at some of the more traditional meals I’ve eaten. Fish soup is something that sounds horrible to me and yet is so tasty. I’ve had fish cooked in many different and interesting ways, and it’s always good. I wish I could make some of these dishes myself! Oh, and I love your combinations of cheese and jam, whether on a pizza or a burger!
What about the people?
I have talked about the people quite a lot already, but one other thing I find interesting about Icelanders is how many of them seem to have something in their life that they get passionate about to the point of obsession. So many of the smaller museums you find are the result of one person who is living in a remote town and is completely passionate about something. Also, a campaign like Inspired by Iceland where ordinary people shared their own homes and lives with visitors just wouldn’t work anywhere else.
Anything you’d like to add?
I’ve been lucky enough to tick off many things on my Icelandic bucket list over the past few years, but there still some things I’ve yet to do. I’d love to interview Jón Gnarr – selfishly I hope he goes back to creating great comedy rather than politics. I’ve also not seen the Northern Lights despite several attempts, or run the full or half marathon in August. So there’s plenty to keep coming back for – thank you to Iceland for being such an inspiring place to visit.