Magazine article Literary Review of Canada

Iceland as Icarus: How International Media Covered the Island Nation's Fiscal Nosedive

Magazine article Literary Review of Canada

Iceland as Icarus: How International Media Covered the Island Nation's Fiscal Nosedive

Article excerpt

The End of Iceland's Innocence: The Image of Iceland in the Foreign Media during the Financial Crisis

Daniel Chartier

University of Ottawa Press

239 pages, softcover

ISBN 9780776607603

IN THE EARLY DAYS OF THE FINANcial earthquake that swept the world in 2008, Iceland was at the forefront, unlikely as it might have seemed. This small country on the rim of the North Atlantic and the edge of awareness for most people in the industrial world had run up a fartoo-remarkable record of economic growth in the early 2000s. It was based on an utterly unsustainable banking expansion and the inevitable crash was both shocking in its magnitude--the Reykjavik stock exchange lost 94 percent of its value, the Icelandic krona 60 percent--and devastating in its economic impact. It inflicted enormous damage on Iceland's reputation and Icelanders' view of themselves.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

The aftershocks are still being felt. In an April referendum, Icelanders rejected for a second time a government plan to repay $5 billion in loans extended by Britain and the Netherlands during the worst of the crisis. The margin this time was 60-40--decisive, but not as lopsided as the 98-2 result in the 2010 referendum.

Aside from the Eyjafjallajokull volcano that disrupted air traffic last year, this is how Iceland has been making news for the past three years, although the stories these days are short and relegated to inside pages. Iceland's financial troubles have long since been pushed off the front pages by the woes of Greece, Ireland and Portugal, which needed European Union rescues, not to mention Spain, which could be next, and Italy, whose finances are rather grim as well. Those five became known as the PIIGS and Iceland's one bit of good fortune is that the derisive acronym included only countries already in the EU.

To the extent that Iceland had impinged on the consciousness of the world, it was the land of fire and ice, source of an extensive literature and home to an ancient democracy, magnificent scenery, volcanoes, dreadful weather and high prices for tourists. That changed in the 2000s when a band of Icelandic entrepreneurs set out to conquer the business world. Their early success naturally led the media to brand them the New Vikings and Iceland the Viking Tiger, to follow in the footsteps of the Asian and Celtic Tigers.

When the crash came, the media turned on Iceland with all the ferocity that journalists usually reserve for those who fly too close to the sun and especially for those whose reputations the media have credulously inflated in the first place.

Daniel Chartier's The End of Iceland's Innocence: The Image of Iceland in the Foreign Media during the Financial Crisis chronicles media coverage of Iceland's fall primarily through the pages of nine newspapers, with other clippings tossed in along the way. (1) The subtitle lays out the goal of his effort. Chartier is a professor of literature at the Universite du Quebec a Montreal, where he runs the International Laboratory for the Comparative Multidisiplinary Study of Representations of the North.

His specialty is something of a barrier for the reader who is unfamiliar with the academic foundations of the book. He is "not concerned with reviewing the facts of the crisis or explaining them, but rather with determining, through a dialectic approach, the main themes and topics of the articles written about Iceland during this period." He is interested in image making-"through the process of accumulation and concurrence"--and says that his study also "relies on the hermeneutics of reception (Hans Robert Jauss and Wolfgang Iser, in particular), an ideological and sociological analysis of discourse (Marc Angenot and Pierre Bourdieu), and applications of such an analysis in a 'national' context (Micheline Cambron, Dominique Perron and Regine Robin)."

This is daunting stuff for the uninitiated, but we hear no more of it. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.