A Memoir


I am descended from the bravest, bluest-eyed Vikings. I am related to court poets and victorious kings. I am an Icelander. My name is Tómas Jónsson. I am an ancient

no, no




First Volume


to my mind, it seems easiest to begin this way, First Volume, and as a result I can move right away to the main kernel of the materi-al: In the first years of the Second World War, I took into my apartment some lodgers, Svein and Katrina, a married couple with five children: Stína, who died; Dóri, their son, a male childling, and a small cat named Títa, at this moment, he’s napping soft and warm against me and has returned along with Anna and Magnus and Dóra so that I reckon he’s all grown up and, what’s more, there’s a new addition to the group, Herman, I hear them call him, cursed be always the day when they returned, and the musician, who rented the small bedroom on the other side of the partition, i.e. of the bedroom where I myself presently live, but his playing carries into this bedroom, which is very much smaller in size. His rental terms were the very same I set myself. I considered them to be decent and unquestionable, such that the property owner could enjoy the benefit of some privileges in his own home, the musician agreed to the rental stipulations, what’s more he got a written document off me stating that he could practice his electric guitar every day between four and five o’clock in the afternoon, equivalent in value to one square meter of apartment, since my bedroom was larger by a floor-braid according to the blueprint. He accepted this not because he was legally keen to pay an equal amount of rent, but as I clearly stated in the rental agreement: A state of complete silence pertaining in a bedroom that is one square meter smaller than the other in the same apartment, the person in question can pay an unequal, lesser amount of rent. But if unusual, private noise carries from the smaller room then the tenant in question, who is responsible for the sounds, is obligated to pay the same rent in respect to the tenant who lives beside him. Two hours a day for guitar practice, I therefore reason, according to my own opinion and to the best of my knowledge, is equivalent to one square meter (1m2). You old financial fox, I sometimes tell myself in a humorous tone, you clearly ought to make the same payment for lodging as the others. I am inclined to the opinion that the value of a property increases in this way, at least in the eyes of anyone paying installments on a house at fixed intervals. Such selflessness and self-sacrifice is my mode of thinking, what concerns me and myself only. I strive to improve my discipline, and control the back-sliding oscillations of my disposition with an increasing severity of external arguments. yes shouted that oppressive spirituality 

Finally I gave up on all the rental stipulations, deciding the apartment had to stop being a pigsty and a twisted den of debauchery; I lived alone for a short time. It’s a great benefit for a person to live totally alone, all by themself—O, wondrous days of solitude—independent of everything except his own whims and eccentricities, which I tell myself as praise, are long won and hard-fought. I have become like the world around me. I live all alone within my own four walls, and I had put to the test by fiddling and patching variously the things that had gone amuck the while I rented out the apartment. I forgot myself in the time while passed living on the earlier rents, lost in myself, and incomprehensibly I stopped taking rent from Anna and Magnus, and on top of everything the blindness which the doctors had managed to keep at bay until now worsened. I suffered from congenital blindness. (Both blindness and baldness run in my family.) Clouds cover both my eyes, never drawing away from “the edge of the sun” but instead shielding the sun the whole day, until the day wraps itself in civil twilight. Yet I have always been, and still am, capable of distinguishing night from day and, peculiar as it may sound, I can tell red from white, so I write in red ink formerly I put the income from my subletting in a particular savings account book, and preserved it there until receiving the envelope (brown) labeled with a pretty signature, about which Sigurdur one let words fall, how it resembled copperplate—Sigmundur promised him, probably, the teacher—in all likelihood I was then twelve years old. (For amusement’s sake, as an aside, I want to note duly, that I received an official acknowledgment from the King of Iceland and Denmark, who provided schoolchildren with recognition for their pretty handwriting. Not to this day has anyone had such recognition as I received.) On the very middle of the envelope was recorded in red ink: The rental income of Tómas Jónsson. Fine digits swimming on blue waves. In every wave-trough and under the wave-crests there was a little period. The far end of the signature rose a rocky coastline with a tall lighthouse shining over the sea. I considered it finished, and the lighthouse was an icon—my very own icon.