Krimfestivalen Dispatches #3: Árni Þórarinsson, Yrsa Sigurðardóttir


There was another English-language panel here at Krimfestivalen, but the subject was Icelandic crime fiction – that ever-growing outpost of Nordic Noir that has really begun to come into its own recently, thanks to an increase of translated fiction that has made it to our shores (and I’m talking about the UK here), and TV crime dramas like Trapped, The Lava Field and Case. Having visited the island for the first time late last year and fallen in love with the place, it was time for two of Iceland’s best authors to chew the fat in Oslo.

Árni Þórarinsson (who had appeared on a panel earlier in the day) and Yrsa Sigurðardóttir – that brilliant, incredibly prolific storyteller – were the guests, on a panel moderated by Sarah Natasha Melbye.

The subject was Icelandic crime fiction, but these two bounced off each other brilliantly – Árni with a with so dry you could sand wood with it, and Yrsa being her usual, fun self. Árni set the ball rolling by saying that Icelandic crime fiction was extremely varied with a bit of everything, which is true for all territories. It just so happens that Iceland tends to get lumped into the Nordic Noir oeuvre. He also went on to talk about how some newer Icelandic crime fiction – and crime fiction in general – has and is getting more and more violent. He said that his books feature ‘normal murders’ like good, ‘old fashioned strangulation and a knife to heart’, which made the audience chuckle. He then opined that he thought perhaps female crime writers tended to kill their characters in much more explosive and ever-increasingly sadistic ways, and asked why that was.

Yrsa disagreed, but if Árni did have a point, it was because female characters would easily lose a fight with a male character, so they have to do the job properly with something to hand. Yrsa added that it wasn’t the murders in stories that were the crucial part of the story – it’s the motivation behind them.

Finally, we were onto the future of Icelandic crime fiction. Árni thought it was in a healthy state with plenty of new authors coming through, but Yrsa disagreed, saying that there weren’t too many new authors coming through – they don’t get the push from publishers and hardly any publicity, with the Icelandic audience less likely to take a chance on someone new than they would someone established.



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