“Sugar Paper Theories” & the Reykjavik Confessions

On the evening of November 19, 1974, Geirfinnur Einarsson was at home with his wife and two young children in the town of Keflavik, just over 30 miles from the Icelandic capital of Reykjavik. When the phone rang, his ten year old son answered it. A male voice asked for Geirfinnur. “I came”, his wife heard him say. A pause. “Well, then I will come.”

On finishing the call, Geirfinnur took his car keys and left the house without saying anything, something his wife would later say was quite normal for him. He drove down to the Harbour Shop in Keflavik where he bought cigarettes. The shop assistant, whose name was Gudlaug and who knew Geirfinnur well, said that he seemed to be in a hurry and did not stop to chat, as he usually did. Gudlaug was the last person to see Geirfinnur Einarsson alive.

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‘One of Us: The Story of Anders Breivik and the Massacre in Norway’ by Asne Seierstad – book review

One of Us: The Story of Anders Breivik and the Massacre in Norway by Asne Seierstad (Author), Sarah Death (Translator)

For a long time, I’ve been interested in true crime books. Sure, I’ve read some Val McDermid, Stephen Booth, even tried Kathy Reichs, but they’re not the same thing. An incredible work of crime fiction is nowhere near as gripping as a mundane true crime, to me. Books about mental illnesses are really interesting too, particularly the serious ones like psychopathy. I read a lot about disasters, from the truly natural like the Japanese tsunami, the half and half, like Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans, to the completely man-made like 9/11.

I wondered if it was because I was just a morbid old Cure fan, settling uncomfortably into middle age and being painfully aware of my own mortality. But the more I read, and the more I thought about it, I realised I was really interested in the breakdown of systems. It was nothing to do with an overwrought mortido, just a fascination with failure; tectonic plates, personalities, belief systems, buildings, nuclear reactors. What holds them together, what causes them to fail, and what happens when they fail?

It’s difficult to tell whereabouts the systemic failure occurs with Anders Behring Breivik, or what the precipitory causes are, exactly. In the Guardian, Ian Buruma describes Breivik’s life as “a ghastly story of family dysfunction, professional and sexual failure, grotesque narcissism and the temptation of apocalyptic delusions” but what I took out of Asne Seierstad’s book was an image of a lonely boy who never really grew up, and was probably always looking for his father’s approval.

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