@Archaeolibrary, @GoddessFish, @Sverrir_Sigurds, @VeronicaLi5,
This vivacious personal story captures the heart and soul of modern Iceland. Born in Reykjavik on the eve of the Second World War, Sverrir Sigurdsson watched Allied troops invade his country and turn it into a bulwark against Hitler’s advance toward North America. The country’s post-war transformation from an obscure, dirt-poor nation to a prosperous one became every Icelander’s success. Spurred by this favorable wind, Sverrir answered the call of his Viking forefathers, setting off on a voyage that took him around the world.
The Book will be $1.99 during the tour.
One memorable incident took place [in 1968] during our drive through Anbar province in Iraq. The place was unheard of when I motored through, but after the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, this Sunni stronghold of Saddam Hussein’s became world renowned for insurgency and suicide bombings. Even during my days, traveling in this neighborhood was dicey. While guessing my way through the desert of Al Anbar, we passed a ghastly sight. It was the charred remains of what looked like a small industrial complex. The scene evoked news articles about an Israeli air raid on an Iraqi nuclear research facility. I knew we shouldn’t be there, but there was no other way out than to keep driving. Soon after, a military patrol pulled up alongside. I stopped the car, and we all got out to show them exactly who we were, a family of dumb, lost foreigners.
A soldier peered into my car. He started shouting angrily in Arabic, his finger jabbing at the camera on the back seat. They hustled us all back into the Peugeot, I in the driver’s seat, Monika next to me, while Steinn shared the back seat with the soldier. I felt something hard poke at my spine. I glanced at the rearview mirror and realized the object was the muzzle of the soldier’s machine pistol. The drive lasted an hour at most, but it seemed like eternity. To prevent an accidental burst from the gun, I took it slow and easy on the desert tracks.
What are your favorite TV shows?
I love to watch the TV series, The Crown, and fortunately my wife and coauthor, Veronica, likes it too. Otherwise we may have to fight over the TV. We love it because we love history. Each episode is like a history lesson, but it’s so entertaining we don’t realize we’re in class. The characters are kings and queens. At the same time, we get glimpses of them stripped of their royal garbs and showing themselves to be as plain as any commoner. In spite of their haughty accents and in-the-air noses, they’re in many ways just like any of us.
On a less serious note, we like to watch the family drama Everybody Loves Raymond. This very dated show is hilarious and makes us laugh at ourselves. What family doesn’t do it? Sniping at in-laws, at each other, and stumbling through parenting. Watching Raymond is a fun way of looking at family dynamics.
What is your favorite meal?
To me, food is an adventure. It’s like my travels, the more exotic the better. In Indonesia, I feasted on durian, a fruit banned from any respectable hotel in Southeast Asia because of its overpowering sweet and sickly smell. In the Philippines I ate balut, a hardboiled egg with a chick staring at me when I opened it. In the Middle East, I tried sheep’s eye and rather liked it.
At home, Veronica and I have an ongoing competition. I’ve served her Icelandic specialties, such as fermented shark meat (buried in the ground for nine months), sheep’s head (torched to get rid of its hair before it was boiled), pickled ram’s testicles and blood pudding. Veronica, who’s Chinese American, has treated me to thousand-year-old eggs, chicken feet, and funguses of all kinds. So far, it’s been a tie.
If you were to write a series of novels, what would it be about?
Given the times we live in, I’m contemplating a series of novels about epic battles to deal with epidemics in various parts of the world. It can take place in any of the sixty countries I’ve traveled to. The heroine, a feisty Jane Bond type, is an operative in a United Nations agency such as the World Health Organization or World Bank. She gets things done, often at the cost of stepping on her superiors’ toes. Such a character has already been created in Veronica’s first novel, Nightfall in Mogadishu, a thriller depicting the fall of Somalia, where she once worked. We’ll have plenty of material to draw on from our international careers. Veronica doesn’t know it yet, but I expect her to be my collaborator again.
Is there a writer you idolize? If so who?
Halldór Laxness, the Icelandic Nobel Laureate for literature. His writing is concise, sharp witted, sometimes outright funny, and his characters are so vivid they remind me of people I know. Much of it is a searing social critique of current or historical norms in Iceland. His books have been translated into many languages, but nothing beats reading it in Icelandic. If a book can sing, his does. In fact, one of his novels is called The Fish Can Sing.
How did you come up with the title of this book?
Veronica and I wanted something that harked back to the Viking era – the golden period in Icelandic history. Their sagas shaped my youth and sparked the desire to travel to see the world and seek fame and fortune. We tried out and dismissed a string of names with “Viking” in it, until a friend suggested the snappy “Viking Voyager.” It’s just right for a story that’s both space age and ancient.
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Sverrir Sigurdsson grew up in Iceland and graduated as an architect from Finland in 1966. He pursued an international career that took him to the Middle East, Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, and the U.S. His assignments focused on school construction and improving education in developing countries. He has worked for private companies, as well as UNESCO and the World Bank. He is now retired and lives in Northern Virginia with his wife and coauthor, Veronica.
Veronica Li emigrated to the U.S. from Hong Kong as a teenager. She received her Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of California, Berkeley, and her master’s degree in International Affairs from Johns Hopkins University. She has worked as a journalist and for the World Bank, and is currently a writer. Her three previously published titles are: Nightfall in Mogadishu, Journey across the Four Seas: A Chinese Woman’s Search for Home, and Confucius Says: A Novel. Her website is www.veronicali.com.
Amazon author page: