Friday, February 5, 2010
Title: Arctic Chill
By: Arnaldur Indridason
Arctic Chill opens with the stabbing death of Elias, a half-Thai and half-Icelandic boy of ten. Paralleled with Elias’ death is the murder case of a new wife by her unfaithful husband. Unlike his previous four mysteries, Arnaldur’s fifth book is haunted by a series of polemic clashes. Apart from the ongoing generation gap between protagonist Erlendur and his two children, there are opposing viewpoints toward family and adoption by young detective Sigurdur Oli and his wife who desperately tries in vain to have children of their own, and increasing cultural clashes between Icelanders and new immigrants, especially among the younger generation, either born in Iceland or in their native countries. Such clashes are amplified to an even greater degree in a country with a homogeneous population of around just 300,000. Another huge obstacle faced by Southeast Asian immigrants currently settling down in Iceland is to learn the Icelandic language, particularly its difficult pronunciation and grammar. Last but not least is the insurmountable hardship for newcomers from tropical Thailand, the Philippines and Vietnam, to be forced to endure the long frozen winter in the chill Arctic, despite the fact that “Iceland is not as cold as most places so far north. The Gulf Stream ocean current warms most of Iceland’s coast.” (The World Book Encyclopedia (2009), v. I, p.20)
What makes Arctic Chill warm is a surprising similarity: two older brothers have both lost their younger brothers: Niran, Elias’ half brother, and Erlendur who suffers from lifelong guilt over the loss of his eight-year-old brother in a blizzard. Beyond facial and other superficial dissimilarities, there is a common yearning for better opportunities among new immigrants, and for an ultimate understanding among all peoples, whether it is in relatively homogeneous Iceland or in the culturally diversified United States.