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May 11, 2010 4:53 PM   Subscribe

LiteraratureFilter: this summer, my travels will take me to Copenhagen, Oslo, and Reykjavík. Please recommend fiction (either historical or contemporary) that is set in these cities and conveys the local atmosphere well.

I'll be spending 3/4 days as a tourist in each of these cities en route to my final destinations in August/September, and would love to have reading material beyond Lonely Planet guides. As an example of the type of fiction I read, I enjoyed My Name is Red and The Black Book by Orhan Pamuk, Elif Shafak's The Flea Palace and Umberto Eco's Baudolino on my way to Istanbul.

Suggestions for notable novels or short story collections by local authors, regardless of setting, are also welcome!
posted by halogen to Travel & Transportation around Copenhagen, Denmark (13 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: In case it's not obvious: the books must be available in English (German translations are also okay).
posted by halogen at 4:55 PM on May 11, 2010

Best answer: If you are not fixated on the modern, you might get a copy of The Sagas of the Icelanders from the library and read a couple of the shorter ones. For more modern stuff, half of McSweeny's 15 is modern Icelandic short stories, and they are all pretty readable.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:02 PM on May 11, 2010

Best answer: Hunger by Knut Hamsun is a classic. It's pretty strange, and I don't think I understand it well enough to endorse it wholeheartedly, but at least it was popular and influential. It's set in Oslo (Christiania back in 1890).
posted by k. at 5:05 PM on May 11, 2010

Best answer: Miss Smilla's Feeling For Snow by Peter Hoeg is absorbing.
posted by honey-barbara at 5:08 PM on May 11, 2010

Best answer: Oh wait, Iceland? Forget Hamsun. You need some Halldór Laxness!

Laxness got the 1955 Nobel Prize, but it still seems like no one has heard of him. Independent People is his most popular book and the most "Icelandic" thing I can think of (though I haven't visited). But it's epic in both character and size; if you want something shorter, I've heard good things about Under the Glacier.
posted by k. at 5:49 PM on May 11, 2010

Best answer: Halldór Laxness is the most translated and best known of Icelandic authors. My favorite of the ones that I've read is Under the Glacier. It is hilarious, wise and wonderful, I can't recommend it highly enough. Laxness' best known work is undoubtedly Independent People, which is highly thought of by many, but I've had problems with it (that's probably my fault, not the novel's). In Iceland I'd hazard to say that Laxness' best loved work is probably The World Light (though Salka Valka, untranslated to the best of my knowledge, is probably a close second). The other two that have been translated into English are Paradise Reclaimed and The Fish Can Sing. Oh, and there's The Great Weaver of Kashmir too.

As to other novels translated into English that are availble, look for Hallgrímur Helgason's 101 Reykjavik and Höfundur Íslands (which only exists in German translation). Of the two I recommend the latter. Though it is in some ways about Halldór Laxness, it doesn't require any kind of knowledge of his works to enjoy.

Steinunn Sigurðardóttir is really great as well. Her Tímaþjófurinn (in German translation Zeitdieb) is one of the great Icelandic novels of the last 25 years.

Translations of Icelandic modern novels aren't exactly thick on the ground, but that should keep you busy :)
posted by Kattullus at 5:56 PM on May 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I agree with honey-barbara about Peter Hoeg, but I liked The Quiet Girl more than Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow. At least, the former made me think of Copenhagen more. There's also A History of Danish Dreams by the same author.
posted by phisbe at 6:26 PM on May 11, 2010

Best answer: There's Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson.
posted by ambulatorybird at 6:56 PM on May 11, 2010

Best answer: In addition to Smilla's Sense of Snow, I'd also recommend Peter Hoeg's The History of Danish Dreams.
posted by Sara Anne at 7:54 PM on May 11, 2010

Best answer: Sigrid Undset's work, especially the Kristin Lavransdattar trilogy. Try to get the Tiina Nunnally translations. They're historical fiction, set in Norway in the late middle ages. A fair bit of it takes place in Oslo. She won the 1928 Nobel prize.

Last Rituals and My Soul To Take by Yrsa Sigurdardottir are mysteries set in present-day Iceland.
posted by bryghtrose at 8:28 AM on May 12, 2010

While maybe not exactly what you're looking for, The Little Mermaid statue is in Copenhagen. And I know I love me some Hans Christian Andersen.
posted by zizzle at 8:34 AM on May 12, 2010

Response by poster: zizzle, The Little Mermaid is in Shanghai for Expo 2010 until the end of October :-)
posted by halogen at 9:09 AM on May 12, 2010

Response by poster: Looks like I've got a lot of reading to do. We're also spending a couple of days in Malmo, Sweden. Any recommendations?
posted by halogen at 9:34 PM on May 22, 2010

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