An Icelandic Children’s Author

Akureyri, in northwestern Iceland, is the birthplace of the Reverend Jon Sveinsson (Nonni), “..one of Iceland’s most famous and best-loved children’s authors.” according to my Lonely Planet guide. I visited the Nonnahus, his childhood home. It was fun peeking into the recreated (I’m assuming) rooms, but most of all I was fascinated by the evidently worldwide appreciation of the man’s work as I was completely unfamiliar with it or him. Several rooms were filled with translated books and photos of Nonni all over the world. Of particular interest to me was that he was especially admired in Japan, visiting there in 1937, of all times! I asked the young woman at the museum if she’d read his books and she said she had only after beginning to work at the museum as they were more for boys. They looked, I must say, pretty old-fashioned. I passed on buying the English edition as it was rather spartan in look and I couldn’t see ever reading it (and everything in Iceland was just too pricey to a whole lot of impulse shopping anyway). The stories were filmed in 1988 and here is a video that gives you a taste of them and some of what I saw in Iceland (as I recognize many of the settings).

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3 responses to “An Icelandic Children’s Author

  1. Ms Friederika Priemer

    Being a great and ardent “Nonni” fan I have read with interest your trip to Iceland and Nonnahús.

    I would love to share with you my experience with Nonni books and with Jón Sveinssons recent 150th birthday celebrations in Cologne – where I live and where Nonni died in 1944.

    The young lady you mention in your article is probably Brynhildur Pétursdóttir, the manager of Nonnahús, with whom I am in lively email contact.

    Both of us are convinced that Nonni`s 12 books could find interested readers also today if they were re-edited in a more modern way and also translated into English. It is a great shame that this has not be done so far (with the exception of a few titles, the latest ones were published in 2006, but are only sold at Nonnahús. I agree with you that they look oldfashioned, which could be a “pro”, but I myself would prefer a modern cover and modern illustrations and a modern translation in order to attract readers – kids AND adults! – of today.

    You see, to me Sveinsson`s books are so attractive and full of fascination and suspense that I would want them to become known in this big country, the US. And I find it deplorable that they do not appear among the “Treasury of Illustrated Classics” (Modern Publishing) which I recently discovered in “Books A Million”.

    What on earth can I do to make Jón Sveinsson known in your country? When he started his “trip around the world” in 1936 (at the age of 80!!) his first stop was New York to which the TIME article you mention refers. And the outcome was his book “Nonni in America” which is a great historic document, followed by “Nonni in Japan” – his last book which he unfortunately could not complete himself, but which was continued by a good friend of his using Nonni`s diaries.

    O, I could go on and on – and I would be very happy if you were interested and sent me an answer.

    At the moment I am in South Carolina visiting with my sister. But e-mails do not mind where one is, fortunately.

    Thank you very much for your attention and hoping to reading you soon.

    Best regards and (belated) A very happy new year!

    Friederika Priemer, Cologne and Charleston, S.C.

  2. Nonnifan

    If you want to know more about Jón Svensson – Nonni – in English, please visit http://www.icelandreview.com and type Nonni into the search field.
    Nonnifan. Cologne/Germany

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