Today Einar Kárason shares his memories about Adventure at Christmas:
‘Books are the classic Icelandic Christmas gift and when I remember the excitement when I was eight or nine, and just starting to read for myself, of whether one of my sisters or I would get the newest Enid Blyton adventure. There were eight of them, The Island of Adventure, The Castle of Adventure, The Valley of Adventure, The Mountain of Adventure, and so on. Now these are seen as highly unfashionable and I think that cancel culture has been unkind to Enid Blyton’s legacy. Certainly they are startlingly old-fashioned and with a nostalgic atmosphere that harks back to the days of empire, with scant respect for more primitive people and cultures, and frequently the villains are of the dark-skinned variety. I recall a line in The Island of Adventure when someone asks who lives in a particular place and the reply was that there were ‘a man and a woman and a black servant.’
It’s understandable that such viewpoints aren’t any longer presented to children, although cancel culture itself and practically everything associated with it should be anathema to any reasonable person. You can never tell how far it will go. If we look back at human history over centuries and millennia, it’s clear to see that many of the biggest names in history, artists, philosophers, scientists and political leaders, all held views that today are seen as bad. They were racists, owned slaves, favoured the death penalty and despised other races… And what we could think or feel would be severely limited if all of that were to be on the banned list.
It’s a shame if people are no longer able to be familiar with works such as the Adventure series. These maybe weren’t groundbreaking books. Both the two boys and the two girls are somewhat stereotypical, and come from a higher class background. The jewel in the crown was the talking parrot, Kiki, and that wasn’t exactly a novelty as both Stevenson and Dafoe had given us talking parrots. But just like those masters before her, Enid Blyton had a knack of leading the reader into new territories, in such a way that you felt you got to know them and felt that you had been there, even if you were reading about them at home in a basement room in Reykjavík.
I’ve scaled Welsh mountains, know Scottish islands and the puffins that live in burrows there, I’ve spent time in Scottish castles and experienced the sight of eagles and foxes, and so many other places I was fortunate enough to get to know as a child, all because sometimes there would be one of Enid Blyton’s Adventure books under the Christmas tree.’
My review of Einar Kárason‘s Storm Birds translated by Quentin Bates and published by MacLehose Press in 2020.
Einar Kárason (born 1955 in Reykjavík), a novelist and one of the most popular author and scriptwriter of his generation, started his career writing poetry for literary magazines, and published his first novel in 1981. His novel Fury (2009) was nominated for the Nordic Council Literature Prize and awarded the Icelandic Literary Prize. He is best known for his book Þar sem djöflaeyjan rís, which was translated into English as Devil’s Island (2000) and made into a film.
Djöflaeyjan / Devil's Island (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MBCbVRpD_Yw) is a bitter sweet tale of Iceland in the fifties. Life is rough in Reykjavik's post-war slum of Camp Thule, where the abandoned US military barracks have been turned into makeshift homes. Struggling wives and their hard-working husbands try to make ends meet. The younger generation dreams of dollars, Rock'n'Roll and the American way of life. To celebrate or to drown their misery - they're never short of a good reason to booze. The film vividly depicts the everyday life of a wacky family, their neighbours and friends and shows how some of their dreams come true and others don't. Information via Icelandic Cinema.