1. The shocking end of «The Blue Fox» is surrealist. Do you still use it on your works? Is the Surrealism still alive in Iceland (or the world)? Have it changed a lot?
As I started as a teenage surrealist and because Surrealism had a major influence on the development of my writer’s skills and thought processes it is still very much at the core of everything I write. So the art of making the impossible possible through juxtaposition of different realities and experiences is one of my main occupation as an author. Surrealism is alive and well in the art of many of Iceland’s best artists, writers and musicians of the younger generation. Its appeals differently to each new generation but it is always visible to my old surrealist inner eye. And I am glad it is still out there in all its rebellious beauty, both in Iceland and the world
2. Hallgrímur Helgason (101 Reykjavik) told me he wanted to show the boreness of Reykjavik in the 80´s, but you had a lot of fun in this period. How was the atmosphere? What bands were involved in Medusa? Any scandalous anecdote?
I think what we were doing in Medúsa and the members of bands such as Purrkur Pillnikk was breaking out of the boredom of the 70’s. For us there was much fun in the 80’s as we were publishing books, organising concerts and performances, putting on art exhibitions and partying. I am sorry to hear Hallgrímur wasn’t having fun and that in itself is the biggest 80’s scandal I can think of right now
3. You have been a friend of Björk for many years. How is she out of the spotlight?
She is one of my oldest and dearest friends. Everyone has an old and dear friend, she is like that.
4. «The Blue Fox» was a worldwide bestseller with very good reviews. Did you start risking with new writing techniques because you didn’t want to become too conservative? Because you still are a bit anarchist?
For me every new project, whether it is a novel, play, libretto or screenplay, has to bring a new challenge with it. Otherwise I will feel I am working and for me work is the enemy of pleasure. Even if a new project would ask me to write in a conservative manner I actually might do that if I haven’t used that conservative manner before.
5. Your novel «Moonstone» shocks everyone again because the main character is a bohemian queer boy who makes his living having sex with strangers in the 20´s Reykjavik´s streets when the contagious Spanish Flu arrived in Iceland and Katla was erupting. Were you in contact to the LGTBQ movement to get more information? How strong is this group in Iceland? Any remarkable artists from it?
The strange thing about the reception of Moonstone in Iceland is that nobody was shocked. In Iceland it is the most loved book of all my books. People of age group stopped me in the street and in shops or at bust stations to thank me for it. So here it is read as a book about a resourceful teenager who is and outsider with a fertile imagination and love of the new art of cinema. I built the character on my teenage self and my queer friends. I was glad the book was well received by the LGBTQ community in Iceland. Their achievements for equal rights has been an inspiring lesson in human rights for the rest of us. Many of Iceland’s best talents are queer but as it is their brilliance as creators that defines them and not their place on the rainbow I will name no names.
6. As Laxness, you are constantly exploring new cultures, religions and social movements. Currently you are interested in the influence of the Al-Andalus in Iceland. The Arabic culture was for centuries in Spain. Can you reveal us any of your findings?
No, I am not ready to do it publicly yet. But there are already indications that the influence can be seen in some of Iceland’s national literary treasures, which would make them Germanic/Celtic/Andalusian and not simply Icelandic.
7. I was amazed by your rings. The eye, the anchor and the one with runic inscriptions. I bed they are magic or something like that. Please could you tell me something about them (if you like, you can send me a picture as well).
They all have some talismanic qualities. The eye is my third eye, a reference to my author’s name, an eye on the lookout for good ideas and staving off the bad ones. The anchor refers to the sailors and seamen in my ancestry, the need for a grounding even though it is not on dry land but on the sea floor as a metaphor for the subconscious mind. The third ring has two inscription in the «höfðaletur», a font designed by the sculptor Ríkharður Jónsson. The font is based on the wood carvings you would find in on Icelandic bed stands and dining utensils like «askur» of the past centuries. My ring says: SJÓN and ÍSLAND. I like it because it is heavy on the hand.
8. What is the most shocking thing for an Icelander when visiting Spain? What is your favorite place in Spain?
Nothing shocks me anymore but when I visited Barcelona in 1983 I was shocked by the fact that I was allowed to drink absinthe there. My antics after drinking it shocked the Spaniards which I now know where Catalans. I like many places in Spain and all for different reasons. As an example I can name Málaga I visited recently because it has a fresh cultural scene and you can see Africa from there.
9. What is the best of Iceland? What is your favorite area/place in Iceland? What is the worst?
The snow falling slowly like white butterflies.
The beach by Eyrarbakki where I write all my books.
The white snowflakes turning into icy slush that gets into your boots no matter what,
10. Do you prefer summer or winter (in Iceland)?
Neither. Of the four seasons I prefer the autumn.
11. What are your 3 favorite authors, movies and bands?
Mikhail Bulgakov, the Russian author of «The Master and Margarita».
Bruno Schulz the Polish author of «The Street of Crocodiles».
Italo Calvino the Italian author of «Invisible Cities».
«Mary Poppins» directed by Robert Stevenson, based on the novels by P. L. Travers.
«L’Année dernière à Marienbad» directed by Alain Resnais, based on the novella «La invención de Morel» by Adolfo Bioy Casares.
«Zerkalo» by Andrei Tarkovsky.
Thor’s Hammer, an Icelandic garage band from the 60’s.
David Bowie, a galactic music alien that landed on Earth in the 70’s.
Arvo Pärt, an Estonian composer of works of higher consciousness.
12. What is your favorite restaurant and bar or coffee shop in Iceland? What is your favorite cocktail or drink?
Reykjavík’s first pizzeria Hornið. Their good quality hasn’t lagged since 1979 and their Napoletana is still the best I have tasted in the world. My favorite coffee shop is my neighborhood coffee shop «Kaffihús Vesturbæjar». I don’t drink alcohol so my favorite drink is the first coffee of the day.
Thank you Sjón you are a great example for the new generations of artists