I’ve enjoyed quite a few books from Nordic writers, and there’s one particular branch of literature I haven’t mentioned until this point – Faroese literature. It has only a short history, but if you research, you’ll find there’s some outstanding writers to be enjoyed, and thankfully some of their best work have been translated into English.
I thought I’d tell you about how I first got interested in the place – I say place, I don’t think think it’s actually a country, I know some Faroese want independence from the Danes while others on the islands think that wouldn’t be such a good idea.
Anyhow, I’m quite a big football fan, and whenever International week rolls around, one of the interests I have is to see how the minnows perform against the giants of world football. Faroe Islands with a population of only 50,000 or so have achieved some magnificent results in recent times, such as a draw against Hungary, an away win in Latvia, home and away wins against Greece (this was most shocking to people). They don’t just play defensive football like other minnows, either, they can play too. So that’s how I became a fan of the Faroes…
So after becoming fond of the football team, I wanted to learn more about the place itself. And it turns out all the places I really like seem very into whale killing… as I’m a pretty big Japan nut. I don’t condone this but I was still eager to learn more about the people, their culture, everything.
Reading a really good book is a great way to familiarize yourself with a place, and “The Old Man and His Sons” by Heđin Brú was perfect for this. It was funny, easy to read, and described what life was like for the Faroese at the turn of rrhe 20th century.
It’s about this old man Ketil, his wife, who for some reason is never given a name, and their youngest son Kalvur, who reminded me of myself. He’s very shy and awkward around people and it was nice to have someone like that in the book, to identify with.
Ketil and Kalvur go out on a whale hunt and when they’re finished Ketil bids more than they can afford on a particular whale. He doesn’t just admit to the auction runner that he can’t afford the whale as that would bring shame on the family. So he accepts a crushing load of debt instead.
The book basically tells of a growing divide between the younger generation of Faroese who are moving inland for work, and the older folk who are remaining out at sea.
Of course, one day I’d absolutely love to travel to the Faroe Islands. I think I’d have to fly to Copenhagen, then catch a ferry to Tórshavn.