Gerður Kristný (Gerður Kristný Guðjónsdóttir) is one of the most active writers on the Icelandic literary scene. She is mainly known for her poetry and children’s books, but also writes novels, plays and short stories. She often contributes to literary and social debate, where she displays an interest in feminism. Her ideas are also to be found in her poetry which contains elements of a woman’s quest for independence and self-discovery.
Kristný graduated in French and Comparative Literature in Reykjavík; her dissertation was on Baudelaire. Her literary debut came in 1994, the collection Ísfrétt (Ice Report), which was favourably received. A second collection, Launkofi (Hideaway), appeared in 2000.
In Gerður Kristný’s work, Icelandic nature is thematically represented in powerful, unconventional images. This often leads to unusual imagery, as in ‘Patriotic Poem’ (Ættjarðarljóð): “My country / a spread deathbed / my initials stitched / on the icy linen”. The poet also allows herself to be inspired by historical personages and locations: there are references in her work, for example, to Troy, Achilles and to Norse mythology.
The poem ‘Anne’ has to do with Anne Frank. Here, Kristný fantasises about Frank’s life as it might have been had she survived the war: “Anne’s friends pound up the stairs / hollering their hellos / and crack open a feast / Some with a bottle of buttermilk / others nursing eggs”. The famous diary has still not been completed, as can be inferred from the final lines: “When the police force the door / Anne sits at the kitchen table / writing”.
Gerður Kristný’s poetry has been translated into languages that include German, English and Finnish. In 2007, her most recent collection of poems, Höggstaður (A Weak Spot) appeared, and was nominated for the Icelandic Literature Prize 2007.
[Gerður Kristný will take part in the Poetry International Festival Rotterdam 2008.
This text was written on that occasion.]