All the Terrible Things I’ve Done

Audur Jonsdottir, an Icelandic novelist, defends Icelandic women shamed in the British media for a youthful slip of judgement.


When I was fifteen to twenty-five years old, I did, among other things, the foll­owing: 

I was arre­sted, along with my child­hood fri­end Jon Adal­steinn, for steal­ing a potted plant in the town of Sel­foss at a time where my step­mother was runn­ing for office in the constitu­ency.

I went to an afterparty at a hotel with a hand­ball team, which in my recollect­ion was German, and splas­hed a glass of water on a sleep­ing hand­ball player with a skin-tr­eat­ment mask on his face, so I could ask him into which room my girl­fri­end had disapp­eared. She ended up break­ing one of the beds with her new German athlete fri­end. 

I hooked up with a stranger I met at a London nightclub, during the AIDS epidem­ic, and brag­ged to my fri­ends the foll­owing day that he had been, I think I recall, a mem­ber of the Manchester United tra­in­ing squad or youth team. My fri­end Aggi, who lived in London at the time, yelled at me for hav­ing given this man his pho­ne-n­um­ber – this was before cellpho­nes – and declared that he could have murdered me. Aggi him­self was eighteen years old and on the run from a for­mer drama teacher of his, an Amer­ican woman in her forties who had foll­owed him to London from the US because she thought she was in love with him. I think I rem­em­ber this woman being with us when Aggi scolded me, and also my fri­end Binna who had wor­ked in a fish fact­ory all of her teenage sum­mers. When the afor­em­entioned man showed up to see me aga­in, Binna took it upon her­self to give a longwinded pitch for vari­ous Icelandic seafood cor­porations so that the man disapp­eared, never to be seen or heard from aga­in. Had social media exi­sted back then, I most certa­inly would have posted a photo of him and tag­ged the tra­in­ing squad or youth team. 


I off­ended one of the mem­bers of the band Whitesnake and was kicked out of a party thrown in their honor. I would probably have posted an emb­arrass­ing photo of him, if I’d have had the chance. 

I was rude to local rock-star Andrea Gylfa­dottir backstage at a concert in Huna­ver, a venue in the north of Iceland. I had gone there to babysit but I lost the child and went up on stage mid-s­how to revel in the glory of the spotlight. 

I slept with guys my fri­ends liked because they had slept with guys I liked. I don‘t know which was the chic­ken and which the egg. 

I threw an after-party at my step­mother’s campaign office, brought everyone from 22, a bar in downtown Reykja­vik, back there, and gave them beer at the expense of the then brand-­new Social Democratic par­ty. 

My dri­ver‘s license was revoked in the small town of Flat­eyri in the West-Fjords of Iceland and when I showed up to the police station to deal with it, they discovered I didn‘t have a license for my dog, who growled at the police officer­s. 

They got me to join a youth committee for the Left Party and entru­sted me with three thick bind­ers bear­ing all their sensitive mater­i­als. I took the bind­ers with me to Flat­eyri, didn‘t feel like rea­d­ing them but let Einar Oddur Krist­jans­son, my fri­end‘s father and a leader in the right-wing Independence Par­ty, have fun with them over a glass of whi­skey. I probably tra­ded them for a bit of the whi­skey to take with me to a party in town. 

I con­stantly took my fri­ends to all-night parties at my 80 year old grand­mother‘s hou­se, a place full of fancy alcohol and a swimm­ing pool in the backy­ard to goof around in naked. Grand­mother just tur­ned up the volume on her public radio channel and fed my fri­ends bacon, fres­hly squeezed orange juice and cof­fee the next morn­ing. Given the opportunity, I would dou­btlessly have posted photos of my fri­ends in their birt­hday suits. 

I showed up drunk for my shift at the Mal og Menn­ing book­store downtown Reykja­vik, and fell down a flight of stair­s. 

I almost had an orgy with my fri­end and my older female cousin but chic­kened out at the last minute and poured milk over them to stop them, like you do to the dogs in the countryside. Too bad I didn‘t have a smart­phone back then. 

I got married one morn­ing sponta­neously to get money for cof­fee and cig­ar­ettes because people are so nice and accomm­odating to newlyweds. 

I wrote an endless string of bad checks at Nellies and Kaffi­bar­inn in downtown Reykja­vik. 

I ran naked into a bank of snow outside a party and also down Skola­vordu­stigur in downtown Reykja­vik. I’m glad nobody had a smart­pho­ne. 

I attacked a siza­ble man at the bar Gaukur a Stong because he was pus­hing his girl­fri­end around. The man chased me out into the street, furi­ous. Thank­fully he didn’t catch me, otherwise I wouldn’t be here to tell the tale. 

I poured vodka into the eyes of another man. 

Me and my fri­end Binna clim­bed the icy-s­heet on the side of the mountain Kinn­in, located in the heath between Flat­eyri and Isa­fjordur, to get to the big even­ing bash in Isa­fjordur in celebr­ation of Fis­herman’s Day. There had been no cars from which to hitch rides. Thank­fully we were too drunk to plum­met. Otherwise neither would be here toda­y. 

I hitch-hi­ked between vast areas in the Icelandic country-side to get to a good par­ty. 

I shaved off all the hair on one side of my head but kept it long on the other. I did this at the video store in Sel­foss and then sat down on a third floor window-sill, feet dang­ling out, so everyone could see my great new hair­s­tyle. This did not go down well as my step­mother was, aga­in, runn­ing for office. Thank­fully for her and everyone else, no one had a smart­pho­ne. 

I pret­ended to go to work in the morn­ing in the fish fact­ory in the small town of Stokks­eyri, but instead I just went and laid down by the seaside and fell asleep. 

I drove around a small town in Cuba in a bus that two guys had taken over. On the same trip I frequently misu­sed the credit card of my fri­end Lisa Krist­jans­dott­ir, now a senior advisor to the Icelandic govern­ment, who was tra­vel­ing with me. The foll­owing morn­ing I got diarr­hea at the Hotel Plaza in Havana and had an accident on the floor in front of some Cuban cabinet mem­bers. Lisa was still with me. I think she stopped using credit cards after this trip, they were a novelty at the time which no one really knew how to use properly yet.  

I tra­veled to Madrid on my own and hung out with an illegal immigrant, a guy who mostly wanted to smoke weed and watch rich people go in and out of some rich-people hot­el. In between I hooked up with Amer­ican guys and imagined I was writ­ing a novel. By the way, I also cras­hed with some Icelandic stewar­desses and eventu­ally took over one of their apart­ments as I had for­gotten to get myself a place to stay when I flew over there on an open ticket.

I did all of this and so much more at that age. Some people did much more intelli­g­ent things. But this does not define me today, even though it gives me a laugh every now and then. I don’t know what would have happ­ened if the inter­net in its cur­rent form had exi­sted back then. Per­haps I would have lost my reputa­tion for good because of some of these things, or for other things I don’t even rem­em­ber. I didn’t have the same good judgement I have today, alt­hough at times it could be bett­er, even now. I was young. I was stupid. Sometimes amus­ingly stupid, sometimes dan­ger­ously. And this is why I think to myself now, when I see young Icelandic women shamed in the Brit­ish media for a yout­h­ful slip of judgement: This could have been me! 

Translated by Birna Anna Bjorns­dott­ir.

Audur Jons­dottir is an Icelandic novelist who has publ­is­hed twelve books that have been translated to eight langu­ages. Her next novel, 107 Reykja­vik, co-w­ritten by Birna Anna Bjorns­dott­ir, will be publ­is­hed in Reykja­vik in Oct­o­ber.  

Ert þú í Kjarnasamfélaginu?

Kjarninn er opinn vefur en líflínan okkar eru frjáls framlög frá lesendum, Kjarnasamfélagið. Sú stoð undir reksturinn er okkur afar mikilvæg.

Með því að skrá þig í Kjarnasamfélagið gerir þú okkur kleift að halda áfram að vinna í þágu almennings og birta vandaðar fréttaskýringar, djúpar greiningar á efnahagsmálum og annað fréttatengt gæðaefni. 

Kjarninn hefur verið til taks fyrir kröfuharða lesendur undanfarin sjö ár og við ætlum okkur að standa vaktina áfram. 

Fyrir þá sem nú þegar eru stoltir styrkjendur Kjarnans þá leyfum við okkur að benda á að hægt er að óska eftir að hækka mánaðarlega framlagið með því að senda póst á

Já takk, ég vil styrkja Kjarnann!
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