Last Places: A Journey in the North


p. 132-4, on Johann Petursson, keeper of the lighthouse at Hornbjarg: Johann took the Hornbjarg job in 1961 because he figured it would buy time for, and even fuel, the novel he was writing. It was unheard of, he said, for an Icelandic writer to combine teaching with the labor of his pen…. His literary colleagues tended lighthouses, from which they still managed to carry on a lively dialogue with their public, like the Skálavik keeper Oscar Adalstein Gudjónsson, who read sections of his works in progress over shortwave to the fishing fleet. Yet between navigating boats around icebergs, gathering errant fishing floats, and enduring assistants who couldn’t read the cloud charts…, he, Jóhann, had scarcely written a single word in twenty-six years.