A serving Prime Minister who writes a novel and promotes it in France is not common…
Katrín Jakobsdóttir: I took the day off to answer interviews! And then France is on the way to Spain where I will join a European Summit tomorrow (meeting of heads of state and prime ministers ministers, editor’s note) . The writing of this novel dates back to the Covid period, when travel was stopped and we were confined. It offered me a form of escape. With a literary background, I have read almost all of the Icelandic detective novels and written a thesis on the subject. A real passion. But moving on to writing would never have been possible without my friend Ragnar… It was he who suggested that I write a thriller together.
What is your background ? You, Ragnar Jónasson, fell into the pot very early…
Ragnar Jónasson: As a child, I read everything I could get my hands on. My father took me to the library on Saturday mornings. By the time I was 13, I had read all the Agatha Christie books in English, and when I was 17, I translated them into Icelandic. Katrín and I met at a detective literature festival.
K J : Member of Parliament for sixteen years (as an elected member of the Green and Left Movement), I have held the position of Minister of Education, Culture and Science in 2009 and that of Prime Minister since 2017. However, I do not I have never let go of literature which acts as therapy and recharges my batteries.
Iceland, with less than 400,000 inhabitants, has a large number of authors, particularly detective novels. Is it linked to climate?
RJ: In winter we have nothing else to do, it’s dark all the time.
K J: We have a very long tradition of telling stories, it is part of our identity. Almost every Icelander has written a book! On the police side, the number of perpetrators is incredible. The 2000s constitute the golden age of Icelandic noir novels. An exciting time to study.
You also have two major literature festivals, including the one you co-founded, Ragnar Jónasson…
RJ: We created Iceland Noir in 2013 and scheduled it in November. There, the sky darkens… it’s the perfect time. We welcome more than a hundred authors, mostly detective works but also general literature, and program films. Organized by enthusiasts, it received great success.
We wish your novel as much success. Reykjavik . How did you go about writing it?
K J: We decided on the plot together, built a synopsis, then worked separately.
RJ: But with four hands. Each in turn, we wrote a chapter, sent it to the other, who rewrote it and so on, until the whole thing suited us. These back and forths lasted two years. We don’t even know who wrote what anymore.
K J: A true symbiosis! Immersing myself in this intrigue, usually during my evenings, brought me moments of real joy.
Your novel deals with the unexplained disappearance of a young girl. Is it based on a true story?
K J: This is fiction, even though there are many unexplained disappearances in Iceland. Nature is really harsh: we are surrounded by the sea, there are many islands, people die from drowning…
RJ: In the 1970s, a similar case occurred. Two men disappeared, we never found out what happened to them. The media regularly launch hypotheses…
Your thriller depicts violence against women. Madam Prime Minister, does this subject concern you?
K J: A lot. Combating gender-based and domestic violence is a priority for my government2. We have made big changes in recent years: legislation, procedure. We have also implemented a prevention plan and are working to reduce gender inequalities3. I have three sons and it is thanks to our laws that I can assume my political office and my role as a mother.
You have another fight which is linked to ecology. The theme of a next novel?
K J: This is crucial. In Iceland, we use geothermal energy, hydroelectricity… but there is still a lot to do. If there is a next novel, it will be about ecological crimes, surely!
1) The series Dark Iceland And The lady from Reykjavik made him famous. Ragnar Jónasson has sold three million books worldwide.
2) Katrín Jakobsdóttir is at the origin of the first world congress dedicated to the analysis and political recognition of violence and sexual harassment, in September 2019 in Iceland.
3) Parental leave is six months for the mother and six months for the father, of which six weeks are transferable to the other parent.