Showing posts from November, 2021

The Pots and Pans revolution of 2009

  The crash, when it came, was dramatic. The global financial crisis of 2008 didn’t start in Iceland. Bankers in the US found clever ways of lending too much money to mortgage borrowers who couldn’t repay it, and passing these risks on to other banks throughout the world. No one could quite work out how many of these bad mortgages there were, and who ultimately held the risk. The banks didn’t trust each other. When Lehman Brothers, an American investment bank, could no longer borrow to fund its activities, it went bust. Now nobody trusted any bank. For a few days in October 2008 it looked as if the ATMs in Britain and America would stop working. And in Iceland. The Icelandic banks were reliant on the goodwill of foreigners, and this was no longer forthcoming. They didn’t have the funds to repay international depositors who were becoming nervous. Every Icelander knows where they were on the afternoon of 6 October 2008 when Prime Minister Geir H. Haarde addressed the nation . Clearly sha

Bust: Viking pillagers in the 21st century

  While I had been writing Where the Shadows Lie , happily losing myself in thoughts of sagas, rings, volcanoes and Gull beer, the financial world was melting down around me. I remembered how I had explained to the German author ten years before that it would never be possible to write a financial thriller set in Iceland, and now the country was smack in the middle of the biggest financial crisis the world has yet seen. Friends urged me to write another financial thriller. I was reluctant. But I couldn’t ignore it. Especially since I had resolved to write about issues that went beyond Iceland. As a foreigner, I wanted to write about Iceland’s interaction with the outside world, about big issues, not small ones, and there was no bigger issue as far as Iceland was concerned than the financial crash. It was a subject that I knew well, and the intersection of greed, hubris, ambition and self-delusion in the people who caused it was exactly the kind of thing I had examined in my financial

Favourite Places – Selatangar

  There are two ways to get to the Blue Lagoon from Reykjavík – the Blue Lagoon is the large geothermal pool-spa next to a power station, and is well worth visiting, although it is expensive. One way is to take the main highway to the airport and turn left on a well-paved road following the tourist buses. The other way is by the back roads, turning off the main road just past Hafnarfjördur and following signs to Krýsuvík. The small road passes Seltún , a geothermal area of vents, mud pots, hot springs and sulphurous ponds that simmer and burp amid hillsides of red, yellow and orange, and water of an other-worldly green-blue. Just south of these is the ‘draining lake’, Kleifarvatn , which sprang a leak in its floor in 2000, revealing a hundred metres of black volcanic sand and rock around the shore (Arnaldur Indridason wrote a great novel set here). All around here, you are very aware that something in the ground beneath you is unsettled. The place is spooky, especially when the mist m