Arni Thorarinsson interview English by the Spanish writer Jordi Pujolà
with the support of Icelandic Mountain Guides
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Arni Thorarinsson interview English
I had over Arni Thorarinsson, one of the best writers and journalists of Iceland, and asked these questions while having some of my cocktails.
1. What is the best of Iceland? And in Spain?
“The best about Iceland for me is that this is where most of my family lives, this is where I was born and raised and got to know my friends. It is a country which gave me the opportunities to do what I wanted with my life, to work in journalism in all kinds of media and then, later, to write books and screenplays. And it gave me my favourite language to work with – Icelandic. Of course, the nature and the landscape is a perfect framework for our little society, which on the other hand has and always will have some of the problems of small societies, including and, perhaps especially, political ones.
When I was growing up in the fifties and sixties Iceland was becoming less isolated, after decades and centuries of poverty and colonialism. Ordinary people were starting to travel abroad for business, study and vacation. It was in the sixties and seventies that Spain became our favourite vacation destination.
Because it was warm and sunny and affordable. So, after university in England and becoming a full-time journalist I had money to go on vacation once a year and the Costa del Sol and Costa Brava were the choices. Even though these were typical tourist trips we got to know a completely different culture, and during one of them I went for a day to Barcelona. I was totally fascinated by the city. But it wasn’t until the mid-nineties that I started to go there regularly for longer periods and it so happened that I wrote most of my first five crime novels there. I have so many fond memories of my stay in Barcelona, the great people, the culture, the climate, and, of course, the food and wine! So, setting aside the current political conflicts about Catalunya, I have to say, the best about Spain for me is Barcelona.”
2. What is your favourite area/place in Iceland? And in Spain?
“My favourite place in Iceland, in spite of everything else, has to be Reykjavík, where I live and work. But there are many spectacular areas around the country, in the west, north, east and south. If I had to pick one favourite I think it would be the north-west fjords, where one of my novels takes place in the small town of Ísafjörður.
“My favourite place in Barcelona is the view from the balcony in the apartment we rented in Calle Londres.”
3. Do you prefer summer or winter (in Iceland)?
“I like both the darkness and the cold of winter and the light and the, slightly, warmer time of summer. One is not complete without the other.”
4. What is your favourite restaurant in Iceland? And in Spain?
“My favourite restaurant in Reykjavík, which was also my favourite bar, closed last year. It was called Café Rosenberg and offered good food and good live music at affordable prices. But now it’s gone and I haven’t found a substitute. I feel like a homeless person in the nightlife.
In Barcelona we had a favourite restaurant, Tragaluz, and bar, Parnasse, which have also closed. Why do things have to change?”
5. What is the most shocking thing for an Icelander when visiting Spain?
“I can’t remember anything shocking, except maybe the pickpockets!”
6. Do you use computer or typewriter?
“Although I’m old-fashioned and don’t have a smartphone or a credit card I do use a computer.”
7. Are you an A (morning) person or B (night) person?
“Definitely a B person, even a C person or a D person …”
8. What are your 3 favourite authors?
“The classic Icelandic author and Nobel-prize winner Halldór Laxness, the American crime novelist Raymond Chandler and the Swedish novelist Henning Mankell.”
9. What are your 3 favourite movies?
“Chinatown by Roman Polanski, Sunset Boulevard by Billy Wilder and Vertigo by Alfred Hitchcock. Honourable mention to the Icelandic Oscar-nominated Children of Nature by Friðrik Þór Friðriksson.”
10. What are your favourite bands?
“The Beatles, The Animals and The Kings.”
11. Do Icelander writers get a monthly salary from the government?
“No, not unless they are lucky. They can apply for financial support from the Literature Fond, project by project. A committee then decides whether they get a monthly grant for a few months to up to a year. There’s much more demand than supply.”
Arni Thorarinsson interview English by the Spanish writer Jordi Pujolà (20 January 2018)