Hotspot volcanoes

A Symposium By Valur & Hannah Jane

Valur Grettisson

photo by

Axel Sigurðarson & Others (see individual captions for credit)

You would think that a nation both obsessed with literature and as seismically active as Iceland would write a lot of stories about volcanoes. But this is not really the case.

Certainly there are. The excellent story ‘Eldarnir: stin og aðrar hamfarir’ centers on the love story of a geologist on the edge of a supervolcano not only in Reykjanes, but also in her heart. It’s better than it looks, trust me.

But if you look at the grand scheme of Icelandic literature, we tend to write mostly about the weather and, occasionally, avalanches. Volcanoes are very rarely mentioned. Even the writers of the sagas were more obsessed with the absurd gossip about the chiefs than the roaring volcanoes that surrounded them. Seriously, I’m surprised more geologists aren’t complaining – really, who cares about King Haraldur’s hair? Seriously!

But in the current apocalyptic atmosphere of Iceland, we decided to take some time to suggest a few possible novels that other people (not us, we were busy watching ‘The Crown’) could write.

Eyjafjallajökull. Photo by Þröstur Jón Sigurðsson,


Let’s put that aside. Obviously, you all know this volcano, it’s the one that stopped air traffic before COVID-19 even had the idea. And really, what a glorious display of raw power it was. Finally, Iceland has proven that it, a small rocky island in the middle of the damn Atlantic Ocean, can stop the world for a second. This is the moment for which the drama was made.

And of course there are movies about it, but no Icelandic writer has yet accepted the challenge of writing about it. But luckily for you, we’ve devised a potential plot: Farmers saw their world turned to ash, reminiscent of that classic rumination of the Icelandic rural depression. Then there’s a murder in the midst of the chaos, and also lovers who are separated by natural disaster, but then they find a way to be together (maybe by getting on a tugboat crossing the Atlantic? ?). The scenery around the volcano at the start of the eruption was downright nightmarish, so adding a few hauntings would be icing on the cake. Because who killed the farmer in the beginning? A ghost. Or wait, not a ghost, just the slaughtered mother of one of the lovers covered in the ashes of one of the lovers, who was actually a ghost the entire time.

And there you have it, a love story that will be as convoluted as Padmé and Anakin but with the amorous cynicism of “Lost In Translation”. Bestseller!

Photo by Óskar Elías Björnsson via Wikimedia Commons.


Okay, there are books written on the famous Vestmannaeyjar Eldfell eruption, as it is by far the most dramatic story of all. About 5,000 people woke up to find an active volcano erupting within feet of their bedroom window. It is nothing less than an incredible feat that the sailors got people out of harm’s way in just a few hours. And besides, no one died.

The fact that there isn’t some kind of war and peace thriller about it just doesn’t make sense. Add some sort of moral ambiguity to saving a citizen who had, I don’t know, murdered his former lover and you have the telltale signs of a Nordic book prize. Because can a human decide if another human is worthy enough to be saved from a natural disaster? Do we have this power? I do not know. Ask Sartre.

Hekla Volcano by Hansueli Krapf / Wikimedia Commons


Perhaps the strangest volcano on the list, but a good choice if you want to do some weird fantasy with a touch of realism. Hekla leaves regularly and it’s not that threatening to anyone other than the poor sheep who finds himself wandering his hills.

But this mountain has a secret: it is (allegedly) the gateway to hell. So maybe you write some sort of weirdly uncomfortable premises with noticeable physical and vocal quirks, throw a stranger into the mix and wait for the moment the eruption begins and good old Jón the blacksmith mysteriously whispers, “Oh, he. nothing to worry about. The real demons are inside the walls. Then there is a kind of silent meditation when the main character realizes that he has been in the city for too long and therefore can only get into farming and slowly blend into the landscape. Yeah, basically ‘Dune’ mixed with ‘Woman Of The Dunes’. We never said we were creative.

1918 Katla eruption. Public domain image.


It’s scary. He’s the one who can take a city, eat it alive in fifteen minutes, and worst of all, stop air traffic. Located under the Mýrdalsjökull, the heat alone of this eruption would trigger a sudden flood that could wash away Vík í Mýrdal in a fraction of a second. In fact, if it exploded, people would have fifteen minutes to get their loved ones into their cars just to speed off. Baltasar Kormákus is currently making a Netflix series on the mountain, but there is no book on this incredible threat that Icelanders live with on a daily basis. And what’s more, this volcano will explode and could go extinct at any time.

Of course, a thriller would be the natural choice, but it seems rather expected, doesn’t it? So go crazy and write a comedy. Maybe a ‘Candide’ tale, but instead of letting your protagonist get fucked on every opportunity, just make them thrive as a result of the eruption. That’s right! Let’s bring Leibnizian back! No one (especially those in the Nordic literary tradition) would see this coming!

It really does write itself, so for a moment allow yourself the fantasy of accepting your Nobel Prize with the phrase: “Take this Karl Ove KnausgÃ¥rd!” No struggles here! »Yes volcanoes!

Axel Sigurðarson, eruption, eruption Iceland, Iceland, Volcano, Bárðarbunga, Bardarbunga, Holuhraun, Vatnajökull, Dyngjujökull, Glacier, ash, ashtag, danger, Department of civil protection, Emergency services,

Holuhraun. Photo by Axel Sigurðarson.

Holuhraun / Bárðarbunga

This volcano was in such a remote location that it didn’t even have a name. It didn’t even bother anyone, he just sat there roaring when no one noticed him. It sounds a bit like a YouTube commentator who doesn’t believe in the moon landing and is just there screaming alone online at robots, only to find out later that in the end the volcano shuts down, as does its life.

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