The original version of Víkíngur consists of eleven short stories by Regina Dürig, written in German, selected by Anaïs Meier from the Swiss DIY publishing house Büro für Problem, and illustrated by Sarah Elan Müller. Víkíngur was first published in August 2014 by Simon Krebs und Anaïs Meier from Büro für Problem. Büro für Problem has made handcrafted books since 2013. Every publication is carefully edited and printed – cut, sewn, or stuck together. Please find a link to the initial publication here.
For Schlosspost, Dürig translated some of her short stories into English. Víkíngur is inspired by Iceland’s people and its landscape. We would like to thank Simon and Anaïs from Büro für Problem and Sarah Elan Müller for the generous permission to republish the English version of Víkíngur.
»Sometimes Regina Dürigs víkíngs are the way you imagine them; sometimes they are very different. Sometimes they drink too much and become angry or find prehistoric animals in their gardens. Whatever is left is the magic that the author herself is capable of conveying to the most trivial things.«Büro für Problem
hrafn – raven
Two ravens sat on the streetlight behind the neighbor’s house
this morning. I couldn’t see them well, even though I climbed
on my desk and opened the window.
Later on they were gliding past my house; they have this sort
of competition: whoever is the first one to move its wings
When I was cutting an onion for dinner with the blunt knife,
the sound was just like their croaking, this rolling, cold sound
that burns itself into your head and makes you cry, whether
you want to or not; it was just like that.
forsögulegur – prehistoric
In the garden I’ve found a small prehistoric animal. Its name
is Adda, just like my daughter’s. I had to take care of different
things outside, for example I’ve finally fixed the loose step by
the front door. Jòn lent me his power drill. After I was done
with the board, I swept the stairs and I emptied the dustpan out
under the juniper. It was there I found the animal. It looked
right at me and made a tiny sound, as if one tried to scream
backwards. I showed it the dustpan and it climbed on it, its
hooves clacked on the plastic. I mean, I don’t really know if
they’re hooves, but in any case it has horn down there. It’s
about the size of a baby seagull, but has four legs. Its eyes are
very awake. I wanted to set it down again, but it kind of
clenched its teeth into the plastic. Then I brought it to Adda’s
room. Since she is at University, she only comes by every
three or four months or so. The animal is sitting in the bedding
box right now and I’m trying to find out what it likes to eat.
The oldest thing I have are potatoes from last winter and
canned mustard pickles from the winter before. If it doesn’t
like any of that, I will go get a fern plant, I guess.
jarðgöng – Tunnel
When he is in the tunnel, Josh smells and tastes the rock; the
tunnel is wild. The orange lamps don’t really light up the
place, they only make the spots without light darker. That’s
why the tunnel looks like many, many caves in a row. From
time to time there are sounds: a slow drone or something
sharp. If Josh were two years younger, he’d bet that he’s hearing giants
or dwarves. Or whatever kids might think. The
most important thing is: don’t turn around. Keep on riding.
Feel the mountain above you. The sheriff does his final tour at
ten. The sheriff goes totally nuts if you ride a bike through the
tunnel. He even put up a second no-bikes-beyond-this-point
sign. He said: If I catch you once again, you moronic bastards,
I’ll break your legs. Björn doesn’t want to come along
anymore, his Mom is quite touchy. And Björn can’t stand it if
she’s sitting in the living room and trying not to cry. Josh
takes the small path to get out of town, because there are no
streetlights. Then the curve past the cemetery and the long
ascending slope up to the tunnel’s mouth. Josh stops. He
imagines the quiet and dark fjord on the other side. Josh thinks
of the two billion stars that are waiting for him over there,
right ahead. Everything is silent.
að óska – to wish
Pálína wants to have a tree. A huge tree. The trunk should be
so thick that she needs Vala and Hanna to hug it. Maybe also
Fredrik, but he doesn’t play outside anymore. Forget Fredrik.
He’s only interested in building harpoons from beer cans and
toilet paper rolls. Pálína has drawn her tree many times and
once she had made it from putty. But the putty-tree melted
when Pálína put it on the windowsill since the radiator was
too warm. A real tree likes it, if it is warm. Then it can keep its
leaves and breathe. If Pálína had a tree, she could ask if she
gets a swing. And a tree house. She could live inside and eat
apples from the tree. Fredrik would be too tall; he would get
stuck in the door. Vala and Hanna could ring, and if they wanted to
come up, they’d have to pull a rope. They could bring the good
bread Valas mom bakes, because from too many apples one
gets a tight belly. Pálína knows that trees lose their leaves in
winter and can’t breathe anymore. They can’t hold their breath
as long as the winters are in Iceland. But Pálína would
exercise with her tree. Pálína’s tree would make it.
Yfirvegaður – thoughtful
Andri doesn’t like to drive the northbound route, he had left the north
a long time ago. Sometimes he goes up anyway, if a colleague asks him to
fill in as a child has something or a wife ran away. Andri actually likes to
see some spots on this route and his favorite one is the burnt-out house
with the horses. Andri doesn’t give a shit about horses; this whole animal craze
starts with dogs and is nothing but unhealthy. These stupid nags
stand everywhere around in their compound, not knowing why. But it’s
different with the house, which is completely burnt out. Andri imagines
that somebody inherited the farm, someone who had been dreaming
about leaving all his life. And the first official act as successor was to go
buy two gallons of gas at the station on the high plateau and carry them
back to the farm, all the way.
And there: taking nothing out, just pouring the stuff over the beds as they
are, over the kitchen table, the couch with the newspapers, the Christmas
tree, the flour and the milk cans in the storage room. And then go
out a few steps and light a match and throw it through the window into the parlor. And then be paralyzed by the power the fire gathers, and hear nothing else than its fizzling. See the swirls of fire and smoke, like miniature hurricanes. Don’t be afraid that something else might catch fire, because there is nothing, nothing besides snow. Hear glass break and be warm.
Andri pulls over, when he’s early, and looks down on the house. Probably the successor rented, like every healthy man would do, the land out to a neighbor who needed it for his horses. They stay in the house or around the house, sometimes they even look out from the window holes. And thereby they aren’t horses anymore, maybe not even animals. Andri has been trying to describe these beings for a while. The best word that came to his mind so far is: thoughtful.
Kari is selling the house of his fathers, this year, he will.
In the basement of the house of his fathers there’s a bowling
alley, the only one in town for forty years.
That is to say: In the house of Kari’s fathers people met, they
drank and a lot of them played at being engaged.
The house of Kari’s fathers is worth around 20 million krona,
you can live on that two years at most, and only if you don’t
really spend anything.
Everybody sells a piece of themselves at some point, Kari
says, either way.
Sarah Elan Müller, born in 1990, lives and works in Bern, Basel and Zurich. She works primarily with language, be it in film, radio plays, purely literary or performative – occasionally she also does illustrations. She performs regularly with the Pop duo “Cruise Ship Misery”, writes as a columnist for the federal government and oversees theater projects by Tim Zulauf for KMU productions.