Those Who Have Dwelt in Silence

A novel based on stories, kept alive from one generation to the next, spanning a time period of over two hundred years. The author, Ásta Kristrún, a woman in her sixties and a student counselor with a psychology degree, moved from Reykjavík, the capital of Iceland, to an old historical village on the south coast. The village, Eyrarbakki, had been a major seaport for over a millennium, providing a connection for Iceland with the rest of the world.

In the seventeenth century, The Danes built the first house in the South of Iceland which was actually above the surface. Up until then, Icelanders only knew of some churches built of wood and on the ground while other buildings were all dug down turf houses. The House in Eyrarbakki was built to supply a decent residence for the servants of the Danish kingdom while they were staying and working in Iceland. Ever since then, this house is known for its very special name, The House, or Húsið in Icelandic.

ákr við bókahillur.jpg

Moving to Eyrarbakki fulfilled an old dream of Ásta’s. She had envisioned spending her golden years establishing a personal and intimate Culture House, offering guests storytelling and music. Ásta had been brought up on a horse farm; her childhood consisted of a lot of downtime which she filled up with daydreams, creative thinking, as well as her parent’s enthusiasm for storytelling.

One of the core stories from her youth took place in Eyrarbakki, to which her great great grandparents relocated after their studies in Copenhagen. They had moved in the purpose of reinforcing the spirit of the Icelandic nation, who had over a long period suffered in poverty and hardship as a Danish colony. 

At that time, the debate for the independence of Iceland was at its peak. The input and influence of Ásta’s grandparents, in the village of Eyrarbakki, had a remarkable effect on the nation’s struggle for independence.

Birta DSCF0554-1 copy-s (2).jpg

Ásta’s husband, Valgeir Guðjónsson, being a well known musician in Iceland, brought their new Culture House in Eyrarbakki deserved attention. Their programs became a success and Icelanders who attended their programs  spread the word quite quickly with their positive feedback and recommendations.

 

After one of Ásta’s storytelling sessions, she was approached by one of her guests, a woman who worked for a publishing house. The woman told Ásta that she would be very interested in having her write a book about her ancestors and the stories she’d just been telling her.

This is how it all began.

Það sem dvelur í þögninni KÁPA forsíða.jpg

The cover of Ásta's book depicts her grandmother and her children, one of whom were kidnapped and remained lost to the family for 17 years.

IMG_8621-1 copy-s.jpg

A tapestry, woven by Ásta's grandmother, chronicling her life and representing the joy of living. The tapestry was exhibited at the 1964 New York World's Fair.

When she began writing the book, Ásta decided to start each chapter by inviting the readers into the screening room of her mind and present to them the visions that she imagined as a child of the people her family told her stories about.

After this introduction, the stories of 8 Icelandic women of the past open up:

  • Women whose important role in shaping the nation has been lost to history. 
     

  • The battle for Iceland’s independence. 
     

  • The influence one generation can bestow upon the ones that follow. 
     

  • How love can be an influential factor of both good and evil.

ásta_book_night-70.jpg