This story begins in October 2010, when I interviewed the Icelandic writer Gyrðir Elíasson. The reason for this conversation was his collection of short stories, Steintré (translated in English as Stone Tree). We discussed the role of the subconscious in Icelandic literature. I noticed there was a lot of sleeping and dreaming in his stories. Elíasson told me about the seclusion in his hometown on the Icelandic countryside, and how nature, culture, and that isolation had influenced his books.
Years passed and my eye started to be drawn to scenic Icelandic images. In the articles of other journalists, in photobooks – I saw rawness, vastness, and space. I read that there was still clean air, unblemished nature, it’s powers undeniable. That was how the desire to see this land one day grew within me.
In February of 2015, I needed an image for the Facebook page of Not Just Any Book, my bookmarketing company. A header image. I started looking for a photo of a bookcase and found the specimen above in an online imagery database. There was no mention of where this photo was taken.
In Spring of 2017, a tempting reason and opportunity to go to Iceland popped up in my Facebook feed. My calendar said yes, so I went. Because I wanted to stay a few days in a hostel – always an interesting spot for a journalist to be – I asked the local tour guide about options. One of her favorites was Kex.
In Iceland Kex means ‘cookie’, and the hostel is situated in an old cookie factory in Reykjavik. It was more than just a sleeping factory, though – culture loving Reykvíkingurs collected at Kex for the attached cafe and it’s Thursday night live music. Music and literature are great loves for the Icelanders.
The hostel also had interesting neighbors: Reykjavik Yoga, where lessons are in English, and the Dance Atelier – in The Netherlands I worked for a few years in the Amsterdam equivalent of this choreographer hub.
It seemed, in short, the ideal place to stay.
When I arrived I didn’t notice it at first. It was only after two days, when the fog of tiredness lifted, that the realization finally dawned. That bookcase in the cafe… didn’t that look exactly like….?