In the frozen January of 1988, Gréta Birgisdóttir, 26-year-old resident of Reykjavík, Iceland, was murdered by her husband, the boxer Bragi Ólafsson. Bragi claimed the murder was an accident. The couple had been drinking for four days when a physical argument broke out. In the end, Bragi strangled Gréta with ropes before going back to sleep.
Ten years later, celebrated Icelandic writer Gerður Kristný interviewed Bragi in the very apartment where the crime had taken place. This novel-poem, which takes its form from Old Norse shield poetry and its mood from modern Nordic crime, is the product of that interview: a commemoration of one woman's death and, through this lens, of all women who have died at the hands of violent men.
In an epic poem whose conciseness belies a mysterious and deeply powerful narrative, the Devil, in shapeshifting animal form, takes us through the events before, during and after the moment of ultimate violence, offering the victim a narrative she was denied until now.
This is Viking poetry at its most contemporary.
Published April 2018