So, here we are, almost February. The year is well underway and I am happy to say that at least from our vantage point here, it seems to be getting off to a good start. Classes are several weeks in and I’m splitting my time between one rather challenging Translation Studies course (MA level, in Icelandic), an ÍSL (Íslenska sem annað mál, or Icelandic as a Second Language) course which focuses on learning how to write like an adult (thank the lord), and a couple literature classes (including one MA class on Scottish Women’s lit—great so far) which are really just for my own edification and allow me to enjoy the opportunity of like, being in college again and just studying for fun (whoo!). And full disclosure to this academic adventuring: the side benefit of the literature classes is that they are taught in English, thereby removing some of the second-language pressure and allowing me to focus the majority of my attention on the translation class.
This class, the History of Translation, is great in so many ways. For one, it’s allowing me to finally start doing what I came here to do, since I’m going to be required to complete two translations (one text on translation ‘theory’ and one prose translation, both written pre-1900). And, miracle of miracles, I do actually understand the majority of what goes on during the lecture, and I’m keeping up with the readings. Sure, it helps that there are a number of readings in English, but there are also a fair number in Icelandic as well. But it is still a challenge, and a humbling challenge at that. I spend a lot of time feeling unsure of myself (or just plain stupid) and it feels a whole lot different (read: worse) saying something ungrammatical and inelegant in a class full of other people who are also struggling to communicate in a secondary language and saying something ungrammatical and inelegant in a room full of Icelanders when, to compound anxieties, the whole basis of the course is that you understand two languages well enough to transport complicated meanings from one to the other. But, hey—you give yourself challenges and then you rise to them, right? And anyway, it’s only my dignity, and I’m basically used to functioning without it these days. Or at least, I really should be…
But enough of all the maudlin self-doubt, you say. Áfram með smjörið!
To this end, it seems more than overdue that I share my most recent piece for The Island Review, in which I explain a bit about the annual völvuspár, or oracle prophesies, and delve into a few of one very special völva’s predictions for 2015. Here’s a quick sample:
You might find yourself wondering: just what, or who, is a völva? The short answer is that she (and yes, actually, a völva is always a ‘she’) is a prophetess, much like a Greek sibyl.
Despite her long-running gig with the magazine, however, the Vikan völva is never actually named or pictured. She’s always referred to in the third person, and is always represented on the cover by an attractive, mystic-looking model. This year, the völva is a light-haired, smoky-eyed beauty with gold chains woven artily through her hair and a septum piercing. Last year, she was an arch redhead, wrapped in a white coat with a fur collar and levitating a crystal ball between her palms. 2012’s cover model broke with tradition and was actually a bearded man with piercing blue eyes and a mink stole. (Perhaps a reference to the fact that historically speaking, in Iceland, witchcraft has generally been more a male domain: of the 21 people ever executed for practicing witchcraft in Iceland, only one was a woman.) 2011’s cover model is wearing a turban and cupping a heavy crystal; 2008’s is hooded in blue silk and fanning tarot cards at the camera.
Reading through her predictions, you generally get the sense that this is simply a commonsensical woman who has kept up with local news, political sentiment, and trends over the last year, and also has a decent memory for historical precedent.
You can read the full article on The Island Review website, here. And for the next few months, expect lots of updates on new Icelandic translation-related terminology, semi-failed attempts at Icelandic public speaking (I’m required to do an awful lot of that this semester), and other fun-filled anecdotes. Áfram 2015!