Top 10 modern Nordic books

As a year-long festival celebrating the region’s writers gets under way in London, Icelandic novelist Sjón selects essential reading from the far north

With the cold wave of Nordic literature crashing on UK shores over recent years and Danish, Swedish, Greenlandic, Finnish, Norwegian and Icelandic authors coming to the Southbank Centre in London this month for talks and readings, I am glad to suggest 10 books for those who want to prepare themselves.

Some of the authors I choose here will be appearing at the Southbank Centre and some are featured in the anthology that I have edited with Ted Hodgkinson, The Dark Blue Winter Overcoat and Other Stories from the North. Others are to be found at all hours of day and night in their books.

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Sjón: ‘Behind my book lies another I will never write’

The novelist recounts the bleak story of a psychic that led him, circuitously, to a story of a gay teenager making his way in flu-struck Reykjavik in 1918 Behind the text of my book Moonstone – The Boy Who Never Was hides another one I will never write. It was in 2001 or thereabouts that I heard a story I thought I’d try to develop into a novel. It was about a medium who had become something of a celebrity by conversing with the dead. People would contact him and he would put them in touch with their lost ones. Most of his clients seemed to be satisfied with the results, even though to a sceptic’s ear the whole thing sounded like bad improvisation. It didn’t help that the medium’s connection to the afterlife jammed whenever the questions to the deceased became too specific. So, the man was obviously a ...