föstudagur, júní 23, 2006

lítill heimur

The agent is very pleasant despite having huffed up three flights of stairs and remarkably prompt as well. He eyeballs my ostensibly moveable goods, and I give him a corner of the table to do his figures. He has his back to my most incriminating case of books. Will I be associated with the university, he asks. Yes, I say, and sit up a little straighter. Teaching what? Scandinavian literature, sagas and things like that. Really? he says, and then, well, there's some of that in English literature too, Beowulf and all. I am impressed and say so. Not everyone knows these things.

After a few more strokes of the pen we get back to the business of reviewing the numbers and handing over business cards. I show him to the door and get back to the business of dreary logistical phonecalls. Soon I have an insurance agent on the line. Change of address, transferral of coverage, current balance, can he have an e-mail address. My e-mail is in flux, and I am forced to give him my private address. I spell it out carefully. He repeats all the ridiculous consonants back to me.

So, he says, that's Norse or Swedish or something? I laugh. It's Icelandic, and I tell him what it means. He laughs. That's great, he says, like Snorri Sturluson. Exactly! I'm surprised you know anything about my field! This is your field? Yes, it is. Wow, that's great -- I mean, I've read the Prose Edda, but not in the original! I tell him he's ahead of most people. I'm an Anderson, he says, so I feel obligated to read up, you know?

We manage to address my technical questions between the other, more interesting topics. I recommend the recent Penguin translation of the íslendingasögur. He says he's read the Heaney Beowulf and didn't like it. Really? Yeah, I don't know, he says. Just didn't do it for me. Well, I say, I like Heaney in general, so maybe that's it. Ah, he says, I could talk to you all day and keep asking you questions, but my supervisor is going to come around and hit me with a stick. Well, I tell him, you could always challenge him to a hólmgöngr.

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