Proust Questionnaire: 17 questions with Gerđur Kristný
By Yeow Kai Chai
To listen to Gerđur Kristný is to revel in her unmistakable parlance, served with a dash of unintended drollness.
The Icelandic author charmed audiences here with her debut appearance at the Singapore Writers Festival in November 2016. Her talk 'Writing New Poems Using Ancient Myths', in particular, was packed to the gills with festival-goers who were won over by her comic timing and how she adroitly drew on Norse mythology for her 2010 award-winning collection, Bloodhoof. The book-length poem recasts, in a feminist light, the Eddic poem Skírnismál, which is about the attempt of fertility god Freyr to snatch the poet's namesake Gerđur Gymisdottir as his bride.
Born in Reykjavík in 1970, Kristný worked in radio and journalism before turning to full-time creative writing. She is prolific, having written numerous poetry collections, novels, short-story collections, and books for children, including a biography, A Portrait of Dad – Thelma's Story, which shocked Iceland and won her the Icelandic Journalism Award in 2005. The latter is a true story about an Icelandic family in the 1960s and 1970s lorded over by a sexually abusive patriarch.
Her other awards include the Children's Choice Book Prize in 2003 for her book Smart Marta; the Halldór Laxness Literary Award in 2004 for her novel A Boat With a Sail and All; and the West-Nordic Children's Literature Prize in 2010 for the novel The Garden. Her latest novel, The Lake, published last year, was well received.
Kristný lives in the capital Reykjavík with her husband and two sons.
1) What are you reading right now?
2) If you were a famous literary character in a novel, play or poem, what would you be and why?
3) What is the greatest misconception about you?
4) Name one living writer and one dead writer you most identify with, and tell us why.
5) Do you believe in writer's block? If so, how do you overcome it?
6) What qualities do you most admire in a writer?
7) What is one trait you most deplore in writing or writers?
8) Can you recite your favourite line from a literary work or a piece of advice from a writer?
9) Complete this sentence: Few people know this, but...
10) At the movies, if you have to pick a comedy, a tragedy, or an action thriller to watch, which will you go for, and why?
11) What is your favourite word, and what is your least favourite one?
12) Write a short-short story in three lines that include the following three items: alligator, stamp, Slap Ya Mama seasoning.
13) What object is indispensable to you when you write?
14) What is the best time of the day for writing?
15) If you have a last supper, which three literary figures, real or fictional, would you invite to the soiree, and why?
16) Why does Iceland – with a population of only about 320,000 people – manage to produce such a bewildering number of acclaimed artists, ranging from musicians to writers?
The tradition of giving books as Christmas presents began in World War II when the Allies occupied Iceland. While Icelanders did not suffer directly from bombing or being involved in battles, they could not lay their hands on the usual gift items as traditional supple routes were cut off because of the war. Books became the most desired objects, as paper could still be imported from America. As a result, the book production grew dramatically in just two years. By 1950, 10 per cent of all inhabitants of Reykjavík worked in printing, publishing and book-selling.
17) What would you write on your own tombstone?
1970 – 2074
This would be good enough. Whatever else I want to say to people is to be found in my books.QLRS Vol. 16 No. 1 Jan 2017