Presidentbesök

Presidentparet på Island avlade statsbesök i Finland och passade på att gästa Åbo Akademi den 17 maj. Besöket omfattade en mycket otvungen paneldebatt om historiebruk på Island och i Finland sedan 1918. Den leddes av doc. Ann-Catrin Östman. Dessutom överräckte presidenten en nyöversättning av Islänningasagorna. Gåvan är storartad och står som en symbol för nordiskt samarbete och för relationen till universitetet på Island, som i många avseenden är jämförbart med Åbo Akademi. Nedan tacktalet för gåvan.

”Your excellencies, the President of Iceland and Mrs. Eliza Reid!

This year, when Åbo Akademi University celebrates its centenary, I am very happy to receive the new edition and translation of Icelandic sagas and thættir, several of which have never been translated into Swedish. I do thank you for this valuable gift that completes an esteemed collection of Norse literature in our university library. We also thank the Society of Swedish Literature in Finland, Skyr Finland OY, Icelandair, and MS- Mjólkursamsalan for their participation in this project.

You have offered us a piece of the one and only really substantial Norse input to world literature. The sagas about these brave and strong Icelanders are ageless because of the eternal repetitions of what life is like for men and women from the 9th century until today. Thanks to the early international influences in Iceland partly anonymous, partly well known authors changed the oral format of these texts into written literature, which made it possible for scholars of today to get an insight into the mental world of our forefathers. The style is often brief and laconic, filled with statements reminding me of formulas still found in Finnish and Swedish dialect conversations. Fate reigns, revenge and blood feuds occur when necessary in order to defend one’s own honour or the honour of one’s kin. And if a man does not act properly in these matters there is a proud woman behind him who badgers him. The sagas and the thættir mirror the ideals of the Norse society reminding the progeny of the first colonizers of their history and their right to participate in the Althingi where most important issues were, and still are, handled.

There is an ongoing debate on the value of the sagas: are they true or are they rather fairy tales? Many of the writers were Christian Icelandic aristocrats influenced by foreign literature that they had made themselves acquainted with abroad. Moreover, the texts were transcribed centuries after the time they depict. How can we rely on them when today we want to understand what we read? In the 13th century, Snorre Sturlason was one of the first scholars to consider this problem. In his time criticism of the sources was just as important as it is today, not only to those who want to study Icelandic sagas and thættir, but to all of us. Alternative facts and propaganda have always existed.

However, when this huge work has now been finished I know for sure:

Cattle die, kindred die,
Every man is mortal:
But I know one thing that never dies,
The glory of the great dead.

Thank you!”

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