Pastor Bodvar's Letter

Pastor Bodvar's Letter

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Pastor Bodvar's Letter

Ólafur Jóhann Sigurðsson
Translated from the Icelandic by George Johnston

6 X 9 inches, 64 pages

Scandinavian Literature in Translation

RESPECTED NOW BY HIS FELLOW-ICELANDERS as one of the finest and most poetic writers of their language, Ólafur Jóhann Sigurðsson emerged from humble beginnings.

He was born, in 1918, to a poor farming family at Hlid, in the southwest of Iceland. He grew up in beautiful surroundings and was taught the practicalities of farming by his father. His home provided an excellent collection of books, but of formal schooling he had so little that he must be considered self-taught. At fifteen years of age he went to Reykjavík, where he worked in a woollen mill and then in a publishing house as printer's devil and later as proof-reader and manuscript reader.

Pastor Bodvar's Letter is an exquisite slice-of-life novella set in Iceland. It was first published in Reykjavík in 1965 along with another short novel in a volume titled Leynt Og Ljost (Hidden and Revealed).

The translator, George Johnston, wishes to express his gratitude to Hallberg Hallmundsson for his invaluable help, without which the translation would have been impossible.


George Johnston


George Johnston was born in Hamilton, Ontario on October 7, 1913. He graduated from the University of Toronto (Victoria College) in 1936 with a B.A. in Philosophy and English. He served for four and a half years with the Royal Canadian Air Force during the Second World War, as a general reconnaissance pilot in West Africa and as an instructor in the United Kingdom and Canada. In 1944 he married Jeanne McRae and in 1945 he graduated M.A. in English Language and Literature from the University of Toronto. He taught English and Old-Norse language and literature at Mount Allison University from 1947 to 1949 and then at Carleton University from 1950 to 1979, continuing on as Professor Emeritus.

To celebrate George's 85th birthday (October 7, 1998), Penumbra Press assembled the festschrift, The Old Enchanter (1999), in which over two dozen writers give testament to the quiet charisma and quick charm of the man—poet, translator, teacher, colleague, and friend.

A Party For a Poet, Winter 2000, Carleton U.

Ólafur Jóhann Sigurðsson


In 1965 the Icelandic critics awarded Ólafur Jóhann Sigurðsson their prize for his novel Hreidrid (The Nest). In 1976 the Nordic Council, which represents all the Scandinavian countries, awarded him their literary prize for two of his collections of poetry, Ad Laufferjum (At the Petal Ferry) and Ad Brunnum (By the Spring). He has been writing and publishing steadily since 1934. His published works include five volumes of short stories, six novels, two short novels, four children’s books and four collections of poetry. His writings have been translated into eighteen languages.

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