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Stefan Jonasson heading to Iceland as INLNA International Visitor

Alicyn Goodman

Winnipeg, MB

The Icelandic National League of North America is pleased to announce that Stefan Jonasson will be its 2017 Lecturer for the International Visits Program. He will undertake a speaking tour of Iceland following the Easter holiday, sponsored by the INLNA in collaboration with Þjóðræknisfélag Íslendinga.

Stefan will be offering a choice of lecture in each place he visits from among five general themes: Icelandic involvement in North American public life, Western Icelandic contributions to literature, religious controversies among the Western Icelanders, Icelandic immigrants’ religious life in the absence of a state church, or a general survey of the history of Icelandic Winnipeg.

No stranger to Lögberg-Heimskringla readers, Stefan has been the paper’s editor for the past two years. An ordained Unitarian minister, he came to L-H after a distinguished 24-year career as a denominational executive with the Boston-based Unitarian Universalist Association. A graduate of the University of Winnipeg, he was the recipient of the Governor General of Canada’s Gold Medal for Academic Excellence. He has been president of the university’s alumni association and currently sits on its board of regents. He received the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2013 in recognition of his community service.

Stefan is deeply immersed in Icelandic history and culture on both sides of the ocean. He has been a frequent tour guide for Icelanders visiting Winnipeg, at the request of the Consulate General of Iceland in the city, and he has led several tours of varying size for North Americans visiting Iceland. There are few topics involving Iceland about which he does not have at least a passing interest.

The international visitor during the 2016-2017 academic year was to have been Guðni Th. Jóhannesson, but he was elected President of Iceland last June and had to decline the invitation to visit North America last fall. It normally would have been Iceland’s turn to receive a visitor, so Stefan was recruited to go to Iceland in place of Guðni’s scheduled visit here. In October 2015, Dr. Grímur Valdimarsson was the international visitor and he toured INLNA clubs to speak about the state of the world’s fisheries and Iceland’s fishing practices.

The International Visits Program was established to foster understanding and relationships between Icelanders and people of Icelandic descent living in North America. Each year, the program sponsors either a person from Iceland to visit North America or a person from North America to visit Iceland. The program selects people with special qualifications or expertise as writers, scholars, scientists, genealogists, researchers, or other areas of interest. Previous international visitors have included literary scholar Viðar Hreinsson, genealogist Sunna Furstenau, photographer Mats Wibe Lund, and crime novelist Yrsa Sigurðardóttir,

For more information about the INLNA International Visits Program, please contact Alicyn Goodman, Chair, IVP Committee (alicyn@mymts.net).


Icelandic National League of North America
North American Visitors to Iceland

The International Visits Program of the Icelandic National League and the Icelandic National League of North America has been established to foster understanding and relationships between Icelanders and people of Icelandic descent living in North America.  Each year the Program sponsors a person from Iceland to visit North America or a person from North America to visit Iceland.  The Program selects people from North America with special qualifications or expertise as writers, scholars, scientists, genealogists, researchers or other areas of interest to audiences in Iceland .  Presentations are made in several locations in Iceland, usually about a dozen or so.

While an objective of the Program is to select persons of Icelandic descent, this does not exclude others whose expertise might be of interest to Icelandic audiences.

Return airfare, IcelandAir, North America/Iceland is provided.   While in Iceland transportation, some meals and accommodation are provided by Icelandic hosts.  You may be a welcome guest in a home or stay in a bed and breakfast, inn or hotel.

The International Visits Program invites expressions of interest from persons wishing to participate in the Program. 

Icelandic National League of North America
#103 – 94 1st Avenue
Gimli, Manitoba, R0C 1B1
Canada

Phone:  204.642.5897              Fax:  204.642.9382                 Email:  inl@mts.net



Viðar Hreinsson


Biography:

Viðar Hreinsson, an independent literary scholar, grew up on a farm in the North of Iceland. A lecturer on various aspects of Icelandic literary and cultural history at universities in Iceland, Denmark, and Canada, he also acted as general editor of the acclaimed five-volume series The Complete Sagas of Icelanders, published in 1997.
Viðar’s two-volume biography of Icelandic-Canadian literary giant Stephan G. Stephansson was published in Icelandic in 2002 and 2003. Volume I was nominated for the Icelandic Literary Prize in 2002 and the completed work received the 2003 Award for Excellence in Scholarly Writing.
An English, one-volume version of this biography is now available in English: Wakeful Nights. Stephan G. Stephansson: Icelandic-Canadian Poet. It has already received good reviews in Lögberg Heimskringla and Kirkus Review.
An outspoken environmental and political activist and former Director of the Reykjavík Academy, Viðar Hreinsson has since written two biographies and worked on developing new and critical approaches to Icelandic literary and cultural history.
Viðar will present Stephan G. Stephansson's biography, discuss his immigrant experience, introduce his profound poetry and philosophy of life that is highly relevant today, and finally read a few of his poems in Icelandic.



Sunna Pam Olafson-Furstenau presented on "Western Icelanders" in a well-received tour of Iceland.


Article in Iceland Review

2012 Tour Schedule




MATS WIBE LUND BRINGS HIS BEAUTIFUL  PHOTOS OF ICELAND’S FARMS TO NORTH AMERICA

Click on the picture below to see a video of Mats explaining how he works
at the Toronto Presentation with Gail Einarson-McCleery
Video by Vern Austman

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

Reviews of this very successful tour coming soon. In the meantime:

Mats main website is: www.mats.is
His interactive website, set up especially for the Ancestral Farm Photo presentations is: http://mats.photoshelter.com
On this site you can view each and every presentation and also set up a preliminary order and get price quotes for final decision on whether or not to buy or alter you order.


 

In the latest N.A. tour by the International Visits Program of the INL of  NA, photographer Mats Wibe Lund from Iceland will visit 11 clubs and feature his  pictures of ancestral farms in their natural surroundings, be it the mountains, glaciers, or seaside.

Flying his own plane, Mats has photographed most of the farms and towns in Iceland and will be custom making his presentations to feature farms submitted by INL club members, from which their ancestors immigrated to NA.  This is an unique opportunity for us, and digital images will also be for sale.

We are very grateful to Icelandair for helping to make this tour possible.

Make sure to come out to see Mats’ show … locations and dates are on the next page; more information from local presidents as to venue and times.


2008 International Visitor

Yrsa Sigurðardóttir

Yrsa Sigurdardottir


 

On Life as A Crime Writer in Iceland - Yrsa Sigurðardóttir

A mere 300.000 people live in Iceland. It therefore stands to reason that Icelandic crimes are relatively few and far between. This is a quite good state of affairs for the general public but extremely depressing for a crime writer, especially considering the fact that the few crimes committed are excruciatingly boring. There is seldom any question about the identity of the culprit as 99,9% of the population are not into serious crime, leaving the police 300 suspects to work from. Considering that half of these 300 people have already been incarcerated, police investigations are not a mammoth task in Iceland as they do not require a great sense of deduction, simply time. It is therefore quite a challenge to write a crime novel that takes place in my small country and yet manage to make it interesting and plausible. No one, least of all Icelanders, are willing to read a full length book about a murder which occurs in a kitchen following an argument between two drunken men – one of whom happens to pick up a butcher knife to emphasise his point. Particularly not when the murderer is apprehended by the police ten minutes later, still standing in the kitchen holding the murder weapon and wondering what the hell possessed him to do such a thing.  As a result, the typical Icelandic murder as described is hard pressed to hold up even a short story. An Icelandic murder lacks motive and the murderer is never egged on by any evil impulses, merely stupidity and impaired judgement. 

Of course there are some exceptions to the above. Two cases jump to mind, one of which involved a man that tried to kill his girlfriend by setting her on fire, only to have his plans foiled when his lighter did not work. The girlfriend, doused in gasoline, managed to escape while he was busy trying to coax a flame from the lighter and headed straight for the police station. He was charged and found guilty of assault as the judicial system considered it impossible to prove attempted murder. The other unusual case was the man who tried to make his suicide look like murder to collect insurance for his heirs. He went a bit overboard as he not only stabbed himself in the chest but also hit his own head repeatedly with an iron bar and cut his throat with large wire clippers from a construction site. Obviously this should have had the police scrambling to find the sadistic and brutal murderer on the loose if it were not for the stroke of genius that made the man lock his door from the inside so as not to be disturbed while attempting to take his own life. It should be noted that despite this unfortunate man’s obvious eagerness to depart this world he did not succeed – he was revived and remains amongst us, a bit scarred but none the worse for wear all things considered.

In addition to the lack of ingenuity common to most Icelandic criminals there are other factors that keep Icelandic crime uninteresting. To name one, the courts always pass the same sentence for murder no matter what the circumstances. This sentence is called a life sentence but is in actuality 16 years. It is unclear how the relationship between life and 16 years came about but is perhaps a remnant from the days when life expectancy was somewhat lower than in today’s society.  Whatever the reason, no one holds their breath during murder trials and reporters can probably write their articles in full at the onset. Another factor is the investigation technique used by the police force to solve cases which involves gathering up the suspects, putting them in solitary confinement and waiting for them to confess. Given that they seem to have an unlimited time period for which to keep people locked up without charges this usually results in a confession.  There is little or no CSI required as clues like cigarette butts and saliva droppings do not often enter the frame.

To be fair Iceland does have a special elite police unit called the Viking Squad. Members are allowed to carry guns, unlike regular policemen who are only armed with clubs. These men also get special training which focuses on making them adept at crawling on their stomach in ditches. To a layman this does not seem particularly up to date as the last ditch has long been removed from modern day Reykjavík but at least Icelanders can sleep soundly knowing that if a crime is ever committed in a ditch, the Viking Squad will certainly be prepared. As this has yet to occur, this elite force does not have much opportunity to justify its existence and the few times they are in the media it is usually because of some fiasco. One of their media highlights was when they were photographed standing ramrod straight, in bullet proof vests, backs against the wall, trying to coax out a dangerous criminal that has been observed welding a particularly menacing shotgun which turned out to be a vacuum cleaner nozzle held by an old lady cleaning her curtains. Another example is the attempted recovery of a body from the bottom of a nasty canyon which turned out to be a dummy used by the Icelandic rescue squad to practice rescuing people off the bottom of nasty canyons a year previously. It stands to reason that the staged rescue failed miserably since the rescue squad left the dummy behind. The Viking squad was unfortunately no better and the dummy still rests at the bottom of the nasty canyon. 

All of this probably relates to Iceland’s history and our beloved Sagas, written at the time when there was no such thing as murder – merely killings. You killed someone and in turn his relatives killed you back. No big deal. No Viking Squad, no lawyers, no particular sentiments and certainly no attempts to conceal the act. One of the nation’s favourite characters from these ancient writings is Egill who first killed at the hardened age of four. The victim was one of his father’s workers and his father was upset seeing that good help was hard to come by even in the year 914.When admonished and asked why he did it the child replied that the man was so well positioned for a bludgeoning. This more often than not seems to be the motive or reason for modern Icelandic murders. Nothing ground shaking or earth shattering, just someone unlucky enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

So one might ask, why bother writing, much less reading, about fictional crime set in Iceland? Despite everything described above this is not a difficult question to answer. Iceland has everything needed as a background for interesting murders and out of the ordinary drama, mercifully something criminals have yet to discover. It is a small society unlike any other, with quirky characters looming at every corner. It has landscape that just begs for creepy occurrences and allows for endless ways of getting rid of bodies or evidence – not to mention the abundance of possible, unusual ways to murder someone. Also, although not acted upon Icelandic society is brimming with motives - an abundance of money is circulating, love and sex are all around, an irresponsible or what-me-worry attitude is general as is the belief in ghosts the occult, and the close connection and relevance of the past invites vendettas and related revenge. So writing about crime in Iceland is a bit like fishing in uncharted waters – you throw out your net of text and can be lucky with your catch by capturing the imagination of the reader or you can be unlucky and your story seems pretentious and downright silly.  Whatever the outcome one always recites an unconscious prayer in the hope that the criminals don’t catch on as in real life boring crime is preferable to the fascinating.

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