Iceland: Uncovering the past in Nordic Literature with Gunnþórunn Guðmundsdóttir

Listen to a podcast on themes in Icelandic and Nordic literature on rewriting the past.

Literature can tell us a lot about a society and Nordic literature is no different – especially when it envisages the past in new ways, filling the gaps that have been left by dominant narratives. Gunnþórunn Guðmundsdóttir, Professor in the Department of Comparative Literature at the University of Iceland, specialises in literatures and cultures to do with memory – remembering and forgetting the past.  Gunnþórunn brings a particularly innovative perspective to the subject as she not only looks at Icelandic literature and the Nordic noir phenomenon, but she does so in comparison with writing and film from other countries, such as, Spain, Ireland, France and the UK.

Listen to this podcast if you are interested in finding out more about:

  • Contemporary Icelandic literature to read in English translation;
  • Currents in Icelandic and Nordic literature on rewriting the past;
  • The exoticising of Iceland and the North; and,
  • Whether Nordic noir is a legitimate or useful category in literature and film.

Join the editor of, Nicola Witcombe, on her fourth virtual visit around the Nordic countries in the podcast series ’The Nordics Uncovered: Critical Voices from the Region’. Gunnþórunn and Nicola spoke on 24th February 2021 when they were frequently interrupted by earthquakes.


Some of the works and authors mentioned in this podcast:

  • Arnaldur Indriðason
  • Henning Mankell
  • Knut Hamsun
  • Sjon (Sigurjón Birgir Sigurðsson): Moonstone: The Boy Who Never Was (Mánasteinn – drengurinn sem aldrei var til) (Hodder & Stoughton, 2013); CoDex 1962 (C & K, 2019).
  • Sjöwall and Wahlöö (read more about them on here: Nordic Crime Fiction)
  • TV programme Trapped (Ófærð) (RVK Studios, 2015-2019)
  • Yrsa Sigurðardóttir

Further reading:

  • Gunnthorunn Gudmundsdottir. Representations of Forgetting in Life Writing and Fiction (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017).
  • Stacy Gillis and Gunnthorunn Gudmundsdottir, eds., Noir in the North: Genre, Politics and Place (Bloomsbury, 2020).
More about the podcast series: ’The Nordics Uncovered: Critical Voices from the Region’
This podcast is part of a series to find the answers to big questions like: What is the state of the Nordics today? How do researchers investigate Nordic society and concepts? And smaller questions like: What leads people to research such a range of weird and wonderful subjects, and how is it done in practice? In the series, different researchers (from Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Germany and the US) give listeners their take on subjects they have studied and researched for years. They also give an overview of key research areas and how this all plays into the development of society.
Gunnþórunn's podcast is the fourth in the series and next time it will be Lill-Ann Körber, Professor in  at the School of Communication and Culture - Scandinavian Studies at Aarhus University, who will be talking about postcolonialism in Scandinavian literature and art, as well as several of the ongoing legacies of colonialism in contemporary society.
Follow @nordicsinfo on Facebook or Twitter to keep up to date with the series!