The best article in this week's New Yorker is Ian Parker's "Lost" (abstract only available online) about Iceland's financial collapse. It includes the following bits that are by turns awesome, hilarious, interesting, and depressing:
Someone threw an egg that hit a wall and splashed a drop or two onto the policewoman's shoulder. Two bananas landed at her feet. Iceland's protests had a consistently culinary theme: skyr, Iceland's yogurt-like specialty, was often involved; that day, milk and cheese had been thrown onto the lawn in front of the Prime Minister's office; and at an earlier protest I had seen a bag of potatoes spilled onto the sidewalk by the Parliament building - potatoes being the gift brought by Iceland's Santa Claus to children who are out of favor.
Iceland certainly had resources - fish stocks, geothermal power, a highly educated workforce, beguiling pop stars - but it was hard to understand how this had been leveraged into "luxury and vulgarity," as Magnason put it.
When, in the middle of the nineteenth century, Iceland began to make its way toward independence from Denmark, the experience was more one of self-discovery than of revolt. "The rhetoric of Icelandic politics is steeped in the nationalist fiction of the 'struggle for independence,'" Hálfdánarson said. "I don't think the Danes were particularly sad to let us go."
Margaret Thatcher is one of his great heroes - after a glass of wine, he imitated her voice precisely - and another is the libertarian philosopher Friedrich Hayek, the subject of his Oxford doctorate.
When the krona did fall, some detected underhandedness. It was reported, for example, that foreign hedge-fund managers had flown to Iceland and had bragged in the bar of the 101 Hotel about their plans to bet against the krona. But as one senior and unsentimental Icelandic financier put it to me, "If you're so vulnerable that five idiots from the East Coast, drunk in a bar, can destabilize the currency, then it's not a proper currency."
(In a similar spirit of ironic self-laceration, a Web site called New Iceland, owing something to The Onion, had launched with such headlines as, "'It's Tempting, Very': Prime Minister Haarde on Selling National Treasure Björk to a Bulgarian Circus.")
At the Icelandic Red Cross, Katla Thorrsteinsdóttir said that the number of calls to a help line for people feeling down, or suicidal, had risen by fifty per cent. Her own dismay was evident. "The only thing that I know is that I will be here tomorrow," she said.
And, when two thousand people met on January 20th, it was with the idea not of making speeches but of filling the area with noise that would be heard inside Parliament. Beneath posters referring to events occurring in Washington on the same day - "Yes we can!" - they beat on pots and pans. This was the start of a noisy week: an open-ended, roaming protest that the local press came to call the Kitchenware Revolution. "Or you could call it the Night of the Long Spoons," Magnason said. That first day, the police were pelted with foodstuffs (including "occasional trays of pasta," as The Reykjavík Grapevine, an English-language magazine, put it) and in return used pepper spray.
On February 1st, Jóhanna Sigurdardóttir, a widely trusted, left-wing, and gay member of Parliament, became Prime Minister of Iceland, heading a new coalition led by the Social Democrats.