"Booby, be quiet!" esays by Eiríkur Örn Norðdahl

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These youthfully exuberant essays on translation, innovation, performance, and audience are compelling, delightful, and often funny: illuminating as Reykjavik white nights and sharp as the skate blade of a North American racing champion.

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Start with this key essay, "The importance of destroying a language (of one’s own)":

The myth about the Icelandic language among the population
– the myth that is propagated in the school system, from
kindergarteners to doctorates – is that in some ways it is a purer
language than that spoken by our brethren in Scandinavia,
which at best is considered to be some sort of pidgin Icelandic,
“broken Icelandic”, languages not really fit for proper discussion
– let alone poetry! – simplified and almost childish in their
limited capacity for the use of cases, inflections or the melding
of new words. This point of view, whatever merit it may have,
has yielded a rabid conservatism within the Icelandic writers’
community that, despite what people might think, and despite
the “official” view, is ever increasing: The idea is partly that we
must not fall into the blackhole of becoming Scandinavians.
The need in Iceland to overthrow the language regime
is quite dire (“Tear this wall down!”). Viewing a language as
such a rigid object does not only promote idiocy, it is literally
a pathway to fascism (“No pasaran!”). A postmodern fascism,
of course – where people are caressed into action rather than
forced (“Make love, not war”). A father saying to his child: “We
really do have a great need for protecting our language, we are
such a small nation. Now, you wouldn’t want to live in a world
where no one spoke Icelandic, would you? You know, maybe
then we would all speak Danish, and the pronunciation is not
very easy.”
Some weeks ago I was sitting at a café in Helsinki with
two Finnish poets discussing the whole “writing in Englishas-
a-second-language” thing that has become more and more
popular – there are several blogs in the world for this, books
have been published – amongst those Leevi Lehto’s Lake Onega
and other poems – and as Leevi has pointed out it may be a
way for non-English speakers of gaining the upper hand on
English-speaking constraintual super-poets like Christian Bök,
who could never enjoy the benefits of working in English-asa-
second-language. ...
Reenter: Experimental poetry. Sitting at said café, discussing
the niceties of actually having a common culture with the
international avant-garde, post-avant, experimental, radical
writing, language whaddyawannacallit, it also dawned on me
that the need to fuck over our own languages is imminent. Well,
it’s either that or jumping ship completely, somehow. Let’s say I
feel aroused by the idea of fucking over Icelandic. Let’s say I’m
really, really aroused. It will hardly reach anyone interested in
it – seeing as the interest for such things is rather limited with
only 300 thousand possible readers – but perhaps it is enough
to induce interest in "less than seven people", which again according
to Leevi Lehto is the prerequisite for changing the consciousness
of the masses. Reaching less than seven people may
even be easier in a small country, within a tiny language.

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204 pages
ISBN 978-952-5954-06-7
ISBN 978-952-5954-24-1 (PDF)