Viking Voyager by Sverrir Sigurdsson and Veronica Li.
If you are seeking proof of the old adage that travel broadens the mind, look no further than this informative memoir. Sverrir Sigurdsson is an Icelander. For him and his fellow countrymen travel is in their DNA, from their Viking ancestors who colonised most of Northern Europe and parts of North America long before Columbus.
Sigurdsson begins his story with the history of each of his parents. Like most of their generation of Icelanders in the early ears of the twentieth century, they were self sufficient, dependent upon farming and/or fishing for their livelihoods. Both are, of course, subject to the vagaries of climate, especially so for a small country close to the Arctic Circle where winter can last for half of each year. Having thus provided a brief but comprehensive overview of the history and geography of Iceland, he describes the two educational institutions he attended in the 1940s.
Like many of his fellow countrymen he completed his education in a neighbouring country. In this case Finland. Once again we are given an insight into the history of that nation and its relationship with Russia. Sigurdsson studied architecture. He began his career as an architectural draughtsman, designing details of windows, staircases and doors for apartment blocks whilst studying in the Finish capital, Helsinki.
After graduation he received an offer of a job in Kuwait. I won’t spoil the story for readers by continuing with the details of his career and travels. Suffice to say that he secured a number of roles within the World Bank, overseeing the construction and provisioning of schools and colleges in several developing countries. Each gave him the opportunity to explore his surroundings and absorb local history and culture. And it brought him to his ultimate destination, the USA – specifically Washington DC, location of the Bank’s headquarters.
Following retirement, Sigurdsson designed and built his own house on the shores of Chesapeake Bay.
The writing style makes this book easy to read. No doubt this is down to his co-author, his second wife, the journalist and novelist Veronica Li (there is a chapter devoted to a frank account of the breakdown of his first marriage). At the end of the book is a handy guide to pronunciation of the Icelandic language.
There is a great deal of difference between travel, as exemplified here, in which the traveller gains new insights and knowledge about the places he or she visits, and tourism. All too often the latter involves returning repeatedly to a familiar place in order to luxuriate in pleasant surroundings. In Sigurdsson’s case, the former is a by-product of a life dedicated to improving the opportunities of others.
On television Michael Palin, Joanna Lumley, and others share their travels with us. In this book Sigurdsson and Li have done the same. Until we are once again able to travel as freely as we did before the advent of Covid 19, we have the joy of books like Viking Voyager to entertain and inform us.
This is my 4-star review for Rosie Amber’s review site where it is scheduled to appear on March 5th. Review copy supplied by the Authors.