time

The latest addition to my website is Steinunn Sigurðardóttir‘s Tímaþjófurinn (The Thief of Time), the third Sigurðardóttir on the Iceland page of my website. This one is a sad love story. Alda Ivarsen is a thirty-seven year old teacher of English and German. She has had a succession of love affairs, which she usually controls. Her latest one is with her Latin teacher colleague, a married man with three children. She has now got tired of him and is ending the affair but he cannot let go. He comes to her house, somewhat drunk, and pleads with her. She sends him on his way. He refuses to take a taxi, despite the bitterly cold weather, but insists on walking. The next day, his body is found on the sea shore. She feels somewhat guilty but not too much.

Since the beginning of the term, she has had her eyes on the new history teacher (also married) and, gradually, they start an affair. Initially, things go well, and Alda’s outlook is joyful and lyrical. Indeed, Sigurðardóttir uses not only poetical language to describe Alda’s euphoria but also actual verse. Then, in the school holidays, he goes off to Mexico for a conference on the Middle Ages, his speciality. She misses him very much. When he returns, he seems less interested. Gradually, while there is no formal breaking-off, the affair dwindles. Alda is devastated and her attitude changes from the previous euphoria to misery and bitterness. She cannot get him out of her mind and thinks of him always, even when she is travelling, which she does frequently, or when she faces personal tragedy. Even a new relationship does not help. This could be very trite and mawkish but Sigurðardóttir is such an excellent writer that we really do get into Alda and see how she feels and reacts to this change in her life. We follow her as she seems to visibly age and she is completely unable to come to terms with the end of the affair. This book has been translated into English but the English translation was published in Iceland thus is not easy to obtain in the UK or US.