Between the past and the future: Migration and melancholic nationalism in Iceland

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Erlendur is the fictional detective at the centre of Icelandic author Arnaldur Indriðason’s series of murder mysteries. In his personal journey, Erlendur embodies the story of migration in Iceland in the latter half of the twentieth century, the depopulation of the rural areas and the spectacular growth of the city of Reykjavík and its adjacent towns. It is the same journey as that taken by the author’s own father, the writer Indriði G. Þorsteinsson, who narrated the uprooting on which Erlendur muses in many of his novels. One of Indriði G. Þorsteinsson’s books tells of Ragnar who has just left the countryside for ‘the gravel’, mölina, as the urban areas in Iceland came to be known, and his attempts to set down roots there. A taxi driver, he becomes involved with a young woman whom he picks up at the American army base that was established in the country just after the Second World War. The young woman, clearly standing in for the nation as whole, has had troubled dealings with the American army, a situation from which Ragnar seeks to rescue her. That mission involves an attempted return to the countryside from where Ragnar hails, a journey that brings the novel to its dramatic conclusion.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMigration and Mental Health
Subtitle of host publicationPast and Present
EditorsMarjory Harper
Place of PublicationBasingstoke
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)9781137529688
ISBN (Print)9781137529671
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2016

Publication series

NameMental Health in Historical Perspective


  • mental health
  • migration
  • melancholic
  • nationalism
  • Iceland


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