Monday, 28 February 2011

Scandi Woollies

Those of us who know and love the Norse and Viking world also love their woollies. The most recent high-profile item of such clothing is the jumper (or jumpers, I think there are at least two), worn by cool detective Sarah Lund in The Killing (currently on BBC4). The programme is, of course, utterly absorbing, not just for those who love stretched-out Scandinavian crime over 20 episodes (Saturday evenings are cancelled for the foreseeable future), but for all who love fabulous camerawork, subtle acting and an amazing, deeply dark atmosphere. The programme has been receiving high praise in the papers for all of these things (just Google BBC4 The Killing and see). UK readers who have missed out so far can catch up on the BBC4 website. One thing I don't quite understand, however, is the English translation of the title. The original Danish is Forbrydelsen, which in my understanding means 'The Crime' (or 'The Felony'), which seems to open up all kinds of interpretative options not available from the English version of the title.
But the real burning question is where Sarah gets her jumpers from. Diligent research on my part has revealed that they can be purchased from Faroese firm Guðrun & Guðrun, though for a little more money than I would currently want to give for such an item (given that the poor old UK is just not cold enough to wear it that often). Still, I thought I'd give them a little plug, since the Faroes in general haven't had much of a look-in on this blog yet, even though I love the place. I found the islands fascinating and wonderful both times I visited, but it's now been a decade since the last time - I'm feeling the urge...

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Woods and Trees in the North?

I just caught the last few minutes of a programme on Radio 4 which sounded interesting, Woods and Trees - Iceland and the Scottish IslandsI went to Listen Again, to find out what they could say about trees in the largely treeless landscapes of Iceland and the Scottish islands! It turned out to be a composite programme, one bit about woods and trees and the other bit about Iceland and the Scottish Islands. Pity, it would have been interesting to hear a bit more about trees in these landscapes.
The second part of the programme was an interview with Sarah Moss, whose book Cold Earth I read a while ago. It's a thriller set in an archaeological dig in Greenland, with lots of strange happenings, in many ways not unlike the atmosphere conjured up by the Icelandic sagas that are set in Greenland. The archaeology bits are not especially credible, but it's an effective story all the same.
It turns out that Sarah Moss has lived in Iceland (which was what she was being interviewed about) and is currently writing a book about it. On following her up I see she just has a new novel out, Night Waking, set in the Hebrides, and on the programme she recalled her childhood holidays in Orkney. She is clearly a lady who likes all the right places! I shall check out this new novel and see what I think.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Myths of the Pagan North

The title is a bit lurid (the publisher's idea, perhaps?) and the subtitle (The gods of the Norsemen) not much better (didn't Norsewomen have gods?). But one can ignore all that and appreciate Christopher Abram's new book. There is no shortage out there of books on Norse mythology, from the high academic, to the execrable popularisers, and everything in between. But this one is a bit different, it takes an interesting historical approach to the topic and has lots of stimulating ideas which, while they might not always be right, are well worth thinking about. And it has a welcome focus on skaldic poetry. There's a review of it in the February BBC History Magazine.