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Sunday
Sep152013

Reykjavik, Ep. 2

September 15, 2013 — On an insanely windy night, the literary hardcore braved the crushing gales to see Literary Death Match's triumphant return to Iceland (as part of the Reykjavik International Literary Festival) — a talent-studded night that saw Sigurbjörg Þrastardóttir outduel Þórarin Eldjárn in a high-scoring Literary Spelling Bee affair that Sigurbjörg won — with the help of the audience — by a final score of 32-19 to win her the LDM Reykjavik, Ep. 2 crown. 

But before the spelling was even a consideration, the brilliant night kicked off with Madeline Miller (author of The Song of Achilles, winner of the 2012 Orange Prize for Fiction) debuting a stone-enhanced fable that had the audience on the edge or their chairs. Next up was award-winning poet/translator Þórarin Eldjárn who reeled off a trio of bedtime-style children's stories that had the crowd in joyful titters. 

The mic was then passed to the trio of all-star judges: Sjón (novelist, poet, lyricist, and Nordic Council Literary Prize winner for The Blue Fox); actress from the National Theatre stage: Saga Garðarsdóttir; and comedian/mayhem-maker Þorsteinn Guðmundsson. The three fired off a series of hilarious comments with plenty of praise — with Þorsteinn admitting he was distracted by Miller's work after her use of the word mole,hich had him thinking of the mole on his leg (which he showed the audience). Sjón then commended Þórarin on his use of Hitler in a children's story, while Saga fell in love with Þórarin's dulcet voice. 

After a long and difficult deliberation, the judges announced that it would be Þórarin who would advance as the night's first finalist. 

After a booze-skewed intermission, Round 2 commenced with Palestinian poet Mazen Maarouf (author of An Angel Suspended On The Clothesline) powering through an entrancing sequence of short poems lit with magic. Finally, then it was Sigurbjörg Þrastardóttir, who matched Maarouf with a pair of poems of her own, read in Icelandic. 

Again the judges were center-stage, with Sjón admitting his surprise that he understood Maarouf's Arabic reading, saying that it sounded curiously like English, while Saga dipped into Icelandic to express her adoration for Sigurbjörg's work, and Þorsteinn was so frightened at one point, he hid under the table like a bomb shelter because of the power of the work.

With another painful decision to be made, the judges emerged from their huddle to announce that it would be Sigurbjörg in the night's second round. 

Then up stepped LDM creator Adrian Todd Zuniga who announced that the night's finale would be a Literary Spelling Bee, in which Sigurbjörg and Þórarin would be tasked with taking turns spelling more and more complicated author names. In an electric sequence, Sigurbjörg nailed Houellebecq and her "phone-a-friend" nailed Solzhelnitsyn, putting Þórarin on the ropes with only two names to go. Þórarin was unfazed, nailing Eugenides but stumbling on Wa'Thiong'o, and it was Sigurbjörg who was announced as winner of LDM Reykjavik, Ep. 2, winning literary immortality to go with it. 

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