The Icelandic Roots Book Club for December 1, 2022, will feature VIKING VOYAGER: AN ICELANDIC MEMOIR with authors Sverrir Sigurdsson and Veronica Li.
By Heather Goodman Lytwyn
Sverrir Sigurdsson grew up in Iceland and graduated as an architect from Finland in 1966. His international career focused on school construction and improving education in developing countries. Veronica Li immigrated to the US 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 in Baltimore. She has previously published three other books.
Sverrir wrote two consecutive articles, "How I Handled Research for my Memoir, " published in the Icelandic Roots Newsletter on February 27, 2022, and March 26, 2022. You can find both articles in our Newsletter Archives.
Those of you who subscribe to the Winnipeg Icelandic newspaper, Lögberg-Heimskringla, will have read an article published on Dec 15, 2021, entitled “An Icelandic book tour in the time of COVID” and written by Sverrir. In his opening paragraph, he wrote:
"Like many immigrants, I am eager to connect my American-born descendants to the world I came from. I feel their lives aren’t complete without knowing their past. It’s like having amnesia – waking up one morning and wondering how you got there. Thus in my seventies, I started writing down recollections of my life, first growing up in Reykjavik and later traveling the world like my Viking forefathers. With the help of my wife, Veronica Li, a former journalist and published author, I completed in 2020 the book Viking Voyager: An Icelandic Memoir." (p14)
Sverrir was pleased that this publication would ensure his children and grandchildren would know more about their Afi. However, when he urged some of his friends and relatives to read it, he found himself being pressured to translate it into Icelandic. The COVID lockdown convinced him to begin that challenge. At first, it was painful, but with perseverance and the help of the writer/editor, Björg Arnadóttir, the project was completed, and a book tour in Iceland was launched in October 2021. One highlight on tour in Reykjavik was that several of Sverrir’s former classmates brought their own published books to the launch, so it became a multilayered celebration of storytelling.
If you have not yet ordered a copy of this book, you may find one at a local bookstore or a library in the U.S. If you plan on ordering from Amazon and you live in Canada, be sure you have the address that is the Canadian version of the company, Amazon.ca, because it will reduce your shipping expenses. American customers can order from Amazon.com, but you have another option -- you can order directly from Veronica at her website: veronicali.com. Unfortunately, she can only afford to mail them within the U.S. Crossing the border really inflates the shipping costs.
Of course, you don’t have to read any book in advance for the Icelandic Roots Book Club. Consider it a book launch you attend to see if you would like to add this to your wish list - a future Christmas gift for yourself or family members. Since you may not get a copy of it by the first of December, I will give you a brief overview of some of the topics you will find in the 25 chapters.
In Part One, we learn about Sverrir’s family history and his life in Iceland up to 1958, when he completed secondary school. The memoir opens with the story of a fishing vessel lost at sea in April 1910. The captain, Þorkell Magnússon, was Sverrir’s maternal grandfather, and the seven-man crew included Þorkell’s oldest son. Another chapter explores the impact on Iceland of the presence of 50,000 foreign soldiers during WWII.
Part Two of the book begins with Sverrir’s study of architecture at a Finnish university. While living there, he became determined to conquer learning Finnish, one of many languages he would master in his lifetime. Consequent chapters describe his travels and challenging work in the Middle East, Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, and the USA. He and Veronica Li met when they were both working at the World Bank in Washington, DC, and married in 1990.
This is the couple who has graced every book club meeting since we began in June and can always be counted on for their enthusiasm and interesting comments. We are so pleased to have them as volunteers in the Icelandic Roots Writing Team. I hope you will join us on December 1 to learn more about their lives through our discussion of their collaboration in developing Viking Voyager: An Icelandic Memoir.