Wednesday, 19 December 2018 | News today: 15

Ofeigur Sigurdsson, Icelandic writer: I would have killed myself if I were not a writer!

I think writing has become a habit, a pleasure ... If I am not writing, I feel very bad. It's not good to be around when I'm not writing. I feel good when I'm writing, I feel great, Sigurdsson says

Ofeigur Sigurdsson, Icelandic writer and translator, is at the forefront of a poetic movement in reshaping the form of poetry and during his stay in Skopje we talked about literature, translation, music …

He is a graduate of the University of Iceland with a degree in philosophy with a thesis on the taboo and transgression in the works of Georges Bataille. He has published seven books of poetry and four novels. He received the Book Merchant´s Prize in 2014 and The Icelandic Literature Prize in 2015. He is one of the few Icelandic authors whose novel was sold out in five printings in three months. His works have been widely translated. He currently resides in Antwerp, Belgium.

You are one of the few Icelandic authors whose novel was sold out in five printings in three months. Are you happy or scared of that?

This is a really good question, since I published the last book in 2014. It was a major hit at the time, as you said five printings were sold out in three months. Two weeks ago I published my new novel, so I’m going to Iceland after I leave Macedonia to promote it. I try not to expect anything, I am happy that I managed to finish it. I am happy with the book and I hope that someone else, who will read the book, will be happy with it. It has its own destiny and I cannot influence it. But it is true that there is fear, how it will go among readers, critics … Now is the moment for a rematch (laughs).

What does writing mean to you?

I think writing has become a habit, a pleasure … If I am not writing, I feel very bad. It’s not good to be around when I’m not writing. I feel good when I’m writing, I feel great.

Your colleague, Anton Baev, says that music complements his writing. Do you love music?

I like to listen to classical music, I like lyrics … Sometimes I want to be in silence, sometimes music helps me concentrate. I sometimes need music to capture the feeling, to get the emotion I need for what I write.

Obviously, writing is very important to you, but what would you do if you were not a writer?

You would have killed yourself (laughs). I do not want to do anything else.

When reading your works, readers learn about Iceland, about its culture, its history, but also about modernity …

Yes, that’s true. It is a privilege to be translated into a foreign language, and I am truly happy about it. I almost cannot believe that it happened to me.

Your character in the novel Jon, when he is in the cave, he faces the past. Do you think that going back is an important road for every person?

I think that’s important. I think that staying in a cave is a kind of isolation, in order to get a better connection with yourself, with your life. Actually, I was fascinated by the act of doing it. The story is based on a historical charcater, a well-known priest in Iceland, and I was so fascinated by the fact that he lived in a cave. I did not have any idea that people did that. That’s why I got so interested in his story.

Where did you get the idea for the novel?

Actually, I got the idea on a trip. I traveled with a friend of mine who is an archaeologist. He was working on a project, we were in the south of the country and actually we entered that cave. This cave is a historical, cultural and archaeological heritage and it used to be  very famous, but now it is forgotten. Until I got into it, I did not know that it existed. That’s where the idea came, it is a fantastic place for a novel, it was very scenary, the place, the volcano … it is a very dramatic place. Priest Jon wrote an iconic autobiography which I had read many years before. He did not say anything about winter in the cave. He only said: “Me and my brother stayed in the cave this winter and we lived a quiet and nice life.” Because he is very detailed in other matters, so I became interested if he was hiding something. And I found out that he was in the cave to build a new home for his family there. So it’s not just hermetic, I found out he was writing letters to his wive, who was in the north and pregnant at the time. I suddenly started writing these missing letters….

So you wrote the letters yourself? There are no letters from Jon?

No, there are no real letters from Jon to his wife.

Is this your first time in Macedonia? You are taking part in the BookStar Festival for a few days, so what are your impressions?

-Yes, it is my first time I am in Macedonia. I really like it. I found it really interesting from the little I have seen. I walked by the river Vardar, across the Stone Bridge to the Old Bazaar. And I found it interesting the whole situation with the name issue, identity, new buildings in the city center … I found it all to be fascinating.

Have you heard about Macedonia before your cooperation with the Antolog publisher?

Yes, I have. Macedonia participates in Eurovision (laughs). Once in a while I will read news about Macedonia, so yes.

Have you had the opportunity to meet some Macedonian authors? Or perhaps to read some of their works?

No, I’m really ashamed of my ignorance of Macedonian literature, but I promise to try to read Macedonian prose and poetry as much as I can.

Perhaps publishers should be more aggressive in the translations of Macedonian authors…

Yes, maybe that, but the works of Macedonian authors have not been translated into Icelandic so far. I think they are mostly translated into English, French, Spanish …

Your novel Jon was published in Macedonian. You were awarded the European Union Prize for Literature for it. In how many languages has been translated so far?

So far, Jon has been translated into eight or nine languages. In Danish, in Portuguese, and was published by many Eastern European countries. I’m very happy about that.