From our interview with Auður Ava June 2019, read full interview on Grapevine.is. With all book orders Reykjavík Grapevine June issue 2019 comes with it.
Auður´ newest novel, ‘Ungfrú Ísland (‘Miss Iceland’), shows this style most clearly. The story is set in 1963, and charts the travails of a female writer who can’t find her place in a male-dominated literary society, where women are not allowed—where they, unfortunately, belong in the home.
“In ‘Miss Iceland,’ a character says this,” she says, exhaling, preparing to quote a difficult passage from her novel. “Male writers are born poets and they become geniuses by the age of 13, but women writers are born with a body and they become pregnant.” She lets the thought sink in, a hint of sadness flashing across her face. “If you look at autobiographies of people like Nabokov or Sartre, you can see that they are born poets and just have to explain why they became geniuses. But women writers often start writing around the age of puberty and the body is central to their stories and it’s a problematic body. It can get pregnant.”
The writer within the novel is clearly talented, a distinct parallel to the geniuses of Icelandic literature like Laxness. “For my hero, everyone is more interested in her body rather than what she wants to say. She’s supposed to be a very original writer with a different voice, and so they can’t put her in a box,” Auður explains. “That’s why she isn’t being published—because she isn’t writing like male writers.”
The book’s message, Auður emphasises, is one of freedom. “It’s a book about liberty, the need for liberty and the search for beauty,” she says. It then dives into what beauty is, specifically, within Iceland. “You know, the meaning of beauty in a society that organises beauty contests,” she says with a small smile.
Full interview here