In this globalised world, we’re increasingly drawn to stories from other places; tales that immerse us in faraway cultures. And where better to find our stories than in fellow UNESCO Cities of Literature, Reykjavik and Dublin? Icelander Sjón and Irishman Roddy Doyle each draw inspiration from the local, transforming the lives and literature of their native cities into stories that take place on the page, the screen – and through music.
Icelandic author Sjón is a rock ‘n’ roll renaissance man. He writes poetry, pens lyrics for Björk, wrote a whale-watching ‘splatter film’, and won the Nordic equivalent of the Man Booker for his novel The Blue Fox. His latest novel, From the Mouth of the Whale, has just been shortlisted for the 2012 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize. His passion is melding ancient Icelandic traditions with the avant garde, mixing ‘myths and crackpot theories together with my need to tell a story’. A.S. Byatt has called him ‘an extraordinary and original writer’.
A former ‘neo-surrealist’ who started his career as a poet aged just 15, Sjón was nominated for an Oscar for ‘I’ve Seen it All’, the song he co-wrote for Dancer in the Dark with Lars von Trier and long-time collaborator Bjork. He is on the board of the Bad Taste (Smekkleysa) record label and a member of the advisory board for Kraumur Music Fund, which aims ‘to strengthen Icelandic musical life, primarily by supporting young musicians in performing and presenting their works’. He is currently adapting his novel The Whispering Muse for the opera and completing his eighth novel.
When Roddy Doyle self-published his first novel, The Commitments, in 1987, he was told he’d struggle to attract readers beyond Dublin. Decades later – after a Booker Prize (for Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha), numerous novels, two films based on his books, and several screenplays – he’s gone from cult hero to cornerstone of the Irish literary establishment. And while his fan-base is worldwide, Ireland remains at the heart of his art.
Roddy’s latest novel, The Dead Republic, closes a trilogy on twentieth-century Ireland, told through the colourful life of IRA man Henry Smart. Talking about the first novel, A Star Called Henry, in 1999, he said, ‘I wanted to make sure that Henry wasn’t an evil character because I think that’s too easy and lazy … if Henry had been born in a more sedentary, more solidly working-class environment, rather than that underclass environment, he’d have had a perfectly normal life like the rest of us.’
Inspired by his friend Dave Eggers, Roddy founded Fighting Words, a creative writing workshop for children based in Ireland, in 1999. He is a frequent presence there, along with neighbour Anne Enright.
Blanche Clark has been a journalist for 23 years. A graduate of RMIT’s Professional Writing and Editing Course in its inaugural year in 1988, she joined The Herald as a junior reporter in 1989, and has worked as a sub-editor, features writer, education editor and as books editor for the Herald Sun... Read more
Alan Brough was born in New Zealand and is quite a bit older than he’d like to be. Alan has always loved books and, from an early age, wanted to be a writer. Then he and his Dad went to see Star Wars and Alan decided that, actually, he really, really, really, really, really wanted to be an act... Read more
Sjón was born in Reykjavik in 1962. He won the Nordic Council’s Literature Prize, the equivalent of the Man Booker Prize, for The Blue Fox, which was also longlisted for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize in 2009. Sjón was nominated for an Oscar for the song lyrics he wrote for Björk in the ... Read more
Roddy Doyle is the author of nine novels, a collection of stories, and Rory & Ita, a memoir of his parents. He has written five books for children and has contributed to a variety of publications including The New Yorker, McSweeney’s, Metro Eireann and several anthologies. He won the Booker Pr... Read more
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