1. Nov, 2020

Skáldaskil/Poets Apart

An epic trilogy in six acts, which deals with the tumultuous friendship between two Icelandic poets, Einar Benediktsson og Thorsteinn Gíslason.

The first part, Þegar landið vaknar/When the land awakens, begins in Copenhagen in 1896, where Gíslason is a university student who has been denied the right to defend his master´s thesis on medieval Icelandic literature on the grounds that there is no such thing. Dr. Valtýr Guðmundsson, an associate professor at the university and a leading Icelandic politician, and Thorvaldur Pálsson, Gíslasons brother in law, soon to become a doctor, are unable to help resolve the conflict. From Copenhagen the goings on move to Reykjavík where Gíslason and his fiancée, Thórunn Pálsdóttir, meet Einar Benediktsson, who eagerly hires Gíslason as co-editor of Dagskrá/Agenda, Iceland´s first daily newspaper. The play concludes with a violent quarrel between Benediktsson and Gíslason about poetry at a public meeting. To Gíslason, this means war.

The second part, Þegar skipið kveður/When the ship departs, is an intermezzo, and begins onboard an East Asia Company ship as it arrives in the Virgin Islands in 1914. Deputy Governor Scott comes onboard to describe to captain H. N. Andersen, the main owner of the East Asia Company, and dr. Pálsson, the ship doctor, the islanders´ deep concern about the pending sale of the islands from Denmark to the United States. The goings on move ashore where Hamilton Jackson, a teacher, is among those who want the islands to be sold. Scott´s daughter, Stella, is eager to leave the islands with the ship. The play concludes with the gun shot in Sarajevo that throws the departure of the ship into jeopardy.

The third part, Þegar blóðið syngur/When your blood sings, takes place at the Gíslason household in Reykjavík in 1932. It describes the reunion of Benediktsson and Gíslason, arranged by dr. Pálsson, a reunion that did not take place as far as is known. Benediktsson and Gíslason reluctantly recall their old quarrel from 1896, lamenting lost opportunities and time. The tension eases slowly. They converse about everything under the sun, especially politics and, ultimately, poetry. Dr. Pálsson and his sister go in and out and Halldór Kiljan Laxess, the young writer, comes for a vist in the final act, puts the old men in their place, and corrects Benediktsson´s poetry with a light touch.

Cover design and pictures:
Aðalsteinn Svanur Sigfússon and Vignir Jóhannsson.
Back cover picture: Lárus Ýmir Óskarsson.