Oppression and Disasters in Past and Present Iceland
Keywords:The supernatural in contemporary literature, Icelandic literature, postcolonial studies, ecocriticism, ghosts, folklore, power systems, hierarchies
This article presents a postcolonial-ecocritical reading of the Icelandic novel Lifandilífslækur (2018) by Bergsveinn Birgisson, arguing that this work can be interpreted as a call for a revision of Iceland’s position and role in the colonial system and its legacy which we are still grappling with, especially in terms of climate change and other ecological crises. The novel places an emphasis on the effects of colonialism for Icelanders, and Iceland being a part of a power system based on the notion of man’s dominance over nature. Focusing on the role of ghosts in the novel—figures that have obvious roots in Icelandic folklore — a change in focus is noted. Ghosts that once were depicted as relics of a heathen past coexisting with medieval Christianity, and later assigned a nationalist-romantic value, are today considered as potentially important in contemporary environmental debate with its focus on social power structures and toxic hierarchies.
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