Portrait of Ófeigur Sigurðsson
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Poet and author Ófeigur Sigurðsson was born in Reykjavík on November 2, 1975. He has published six books of poetry and two novels. Ófeigur has tried his hand at a number of things: working as a uniformed night-watchman at a hotel, pre-packing ham and bacon at a factory farm, exercising his brawn as a dock worker, and exercising his brains as a student at the Philosophy Department of the University of Iceland, from where he received his BA degree in 2007, with a thesis on the taboo and transgression in the works of Georges Bataille. Ófeigur is at the forefront of a poetic movement of dynamic young creative people, who have recently had a hand in reshaping the form of Icelandic poetry. He has translated literature and written for radio on writers including Louis-Ferdinand Céline and Michel Houellebecq.

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In the terrible winter of 1755-1756, Jon Steingrimsson travels through Iceland, dwelling in a cave in the south and writing letters to his pregnant wife in the north. He is under suspicion of having murdered her former husband and has been expelled from his position at his monastery. The south, however, is not a desirable place to be in: the glacial volcano Katla is erupting, shrouding everything in a cloud of ash, destroying everything in its path, and Jon is at risk of being buried alive in the cave. Despite this, he works hard to prepare for the arrival of his wife in the spring so that they can start a new life there away from everything. But the scandal of the suspected murder follows Jon all the way into the cave and tortures him there both day and night. Very soon, the general sheriff pays him a visit…

Reverend Jon Steingrimsson is one of the most remarkable people in the history of Iceland, and later became known as the ‘pastor of fire’. This unique novel portrays him as a young man in the dark times of the first sparks of the Enlightenment.

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Translated by Philip Roughton

“In the morning I went off to cut a tumor from a man.”
(Autobiography of Jón Steingrímsson)

God’s dearest gift & precious wife

It is only by God’s ample mercy that we brothers have reached the cave safely following our trip south over the highlands and hither into the darkness. That we should have survived is a blessing and a miracle; in the mountains we were caught in the most violent of storms. Beloved Þórunn, I will soon place these scribbled words of mine in the hands of a man who stopped here in Hellar; he says that he will be going to Skagafjörður sooner or later. The man is large and wears an enormous red woolen cassock, he carries an infant on his shoulders, sells books but is illiterate himself. These are his traits. His name is Kristófer and he promised to bring these pages to you. I gave him a rixdollar for his trouble. In other words, if you receive these trifles, it is proof that we survived the murderous snowstorm on Kjölur; we brothers have made it to Hellar.

The land is a single living creature. A body. And Þórunn, how painful it is to have had to part from you, with our blessed little one in your own body; may our good Lord be with you and the good midwife when the child wishes to come forth into our dreary earthly habitation. We must content ourselves with written messages for the time being and trust to those who travel the country despite the perilousness and cold of the weather and the harsh conditions in the North. Did not Sheriff Skúli mention some bearers / couriers / postmen / letter carriers?… It may be that no one wishes to be a postman here in this country but for certain eccentrics and vagrants. It would be most pleasing if this were rectified, and I understand that Skúli is working on this matter somewhat with the counts in Copenhagen. There the postmen enjoy great respect and wear uniforms provided by the king’s tailor, with brass buttons and silk ribbons / stiff caps / a horse and a trumpet! These individuals are paid a good shilling for their journeys. And then there are the Taxis in Hamburg, who rush all over Germany!

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