The Promise of Iceland
Born from a secret liaison between a British mother and an Icelandic father, Kari Gislason was the subject of a promise - a promise elicited from his father to not reveal his identity. The Icelandic city of Reykjavik, where Kari was born, was also home to his father and his father's wife and four children - none of whom knew of Kari's existence. Moving regularly between Iceland and Australia, he grew up aware of his father's identity, but understanding that it was the subject of a secret pact between his parents. At the age of 27, he makes a decision to break the pact and contacts his father's other family. What follows, and what leads him there, makes for a riveting journey over landscapes, time and memory. Kari travels from the freezing cold winters of Iceland to the shark net at Sydney's Balmoral, to an unsettled life in the English countryside to the harsh yellow summer of Brisbane and back again. He traces the steps of his mother who, in the mid-1960s, answered an ad in The Times for an English-speaking secretary and found herself in Iceland among the 'Army of Foreign Secretaries', and in the arms of a secret lover. Iceland becomes the substitute for the father Kari never really knew as he discovers the meaning of 'home' and closes the circle of his own fatherless life.
Kari Gislason is a lecturer in creative writing and literary studies at Queensland University of Technology and a former professor at both the University of Iceland and the University of Queensland. He is also a former judge for the Steele Rudd Short Story Collection Prize.