Kari Gislason

At the beginning of this wide-ranging collection of criticism by the novelist, critic, and academic Anthony Macris, the author notes wryly that an early candidate for the book’s title was Personality Crisis, such is its diversity of topics and styles. The implication here is that reviews and essays form a kind of autobiography. I’m not sure I would use the word ‘crisis’ to describe it, but certainly the portrait we have in this case is of a writer driven by very different kinds of curiosity: about literature and writing but also the art forms that lie beyond them – and, as centrally, by a social and political curiosity about the ways those forms change when they respond to the world around us.

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One of the strongest markers of identity in my birthplace, Iceland, is the idea of independence. The country takes great pride in how it reacquired full independence from Denmark in 1944; one of the main political parties is called the Independence Party, and the most famous Icelandic novel is Independent People by Halldór Laxness ... ... (read more)

When I was twenty-seven, I visited mainland Scandinavia for the first time. I had spent the last of my travel money on a rail pass, and I was on a tight budget. One day, I thought I would save some money on accommodation by catching an overnight train from Stockholm to Trondheim. When I woke up the next morning ...

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One of the claims that is sometimes made for the memoir form is that it gives the author a degree of release from the past. Getting it down on paper can also be about ...

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Reading Australia: 'Romulus, My Father' by Raimond Gaita

Kári Gíslason
Tuesday, 31 March 2015

In a critical moment of reflection and pause, Romulus, My Father offers the reader a key to its interpretation. The author – philosopher Raimond Gaita – tells us that ‘Plato said that those who love and seek wisdom are clinging in recollection to things they once saw’. This reference to the Greek philosopher’s work < ...

Catriona Menzies-Pike reviews 'The Ash Burner' by Kári Gíslason

Catriona Menzies-Pike
Thursday, 26 March 2015

Midway through Kári Gíslason’s début novel, The Ash Burner, Ted, his dreamy, curious narrator, watches Anthony paint Claire. As she strikes angular poses for him, Ted reflects on how he would paint her: ‘I would have waited for the moments when she relaxed that pose and when her outline, the shape of her waist, was allowed to stand uncorrected by art o ...

How a writer bears witness to his age is necessarily the expression of many things, not least the possibly quite peculiar nature of an author’s life. Literary works often emerge from complex upbringings, from periods of youthful isolation spent reading and writing. More still seem to have been written as a result of the fraught relationships that befall authors, p ...

Robert Hillman's 'Joyful'

Kári Gíslason
Wednesday, 30 April 2014

While it may not be a novel’s main purpose, certainly one of its pleasures can lie in how it witnesses the history of the form itself. All novels reveal something of the genealogy from which they emerge, their debt to past traditions and ways of storytelling. Rather as is the case with families, sometimes the further back you go the more striking the resemblance b ...

Italo Calvino once observed that the ideal condition for a writer is ‘close to anonymity’, adding that ‘the more the author’s figure invades the field, the more the world he portrays empties’. These comments about anonymity were made during an interview on Swiss television, no less. Calvino must have felt his imaginary worlds slipping away as he spoke ...

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Kári Gíslason reviews 'A History of Silence' by Lloyd Jones

Kári Gíslason
Wednesday, 25 September 2013

When Mark Twain arrived in Watsons Bay in 1895, he called out from his ship that he was going to write a book about Australia. ‘I think I ought to start now. You know so much more of a country when you haven’t seen it than when you have. Besides, you don’t get your mind strengthened by contact with ...

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