Letters from Iceland

On what would have been his 107th birthday, Special Collections & Archives presents W.H. Auden’s Letters From Iceland.

Part letter, part travel book, and part poetry collection, Letters commemorates three months Auden and co-author Louis MacNeice spent in Iceland in 1936.

The book includes travel advice such as what to drink:

The beer is weak and nasty, and the lemonade unspeakable

and how to get around:

There are excellent bus services to all parts of the Island…Where there are no official buses, there are often milk-cars which will take you very slowly but cheaply. Those who are car-sick will have, I’m afraid, a rough time. (The drivers are excellent.)

Trivia is provided:

THE LONGEST WORD IN ICELANDIC
Haestarjettarmalaflutunesmanskifstofustulkonutidyralykill–a latch-key belonging to a girl working in the office of a barrister.

Much of the book is in verse:

The reason for hereness seems beyond conjecture,
There are no trees or trains or architecture,
Fruits and greens are insufficient for health
And culture is limited by lack of wealth.
The tourist sights have nothing like Stonehenge,
The literature is all about revenge.
And yet I like it if only because this nation
Enjoys a scarcity of population…

and both photos and graphs are used as illustrations.

This book is part of Special Collections & Archives’ Robert Giroux Collection of 20th century American writers.

Found in the Archives is a recurring series of crazy cool stuff found in the Monroe Library’s Special Collections & Archives.

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