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.  

Styrkir þú Kjarnann?

Kjarninn reiðir sig á framlög lesenda. Með því að styrkja Kjarnann mánaðarlega tekur þú þátt í að halda úti öflugum fjölmiðli.

Kjarninn hefur verið til taks fyrir kröfuharða lesendur í sjö ár og býður almenningi upp á vandaða umfjöllun þar sem áhersla er á gæði og dýpt.  

Ef þú ert nú þegar styrkjandi leyfum við okkur að benda á að hægt er að óska eftir að hækka styrkinn með því að senda póst á

Já takk, ég vil styrkja Kjarnann!
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