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Meltdown: The e-Book!

What happens to ordinary people when a nation’s economy collapses?

Over the last year and a half I have been asked that question, or variations thereof, numerous times. Much of the discussion about the meltdown here in Iceland has focused on the Big Picture – the systemic failure, the culprits, the banks, the currency fiasco, the political crisis … and [lest we forget!] Icesave. However, very little space has been given over to what happens to normal people who suddenly find themselves in alien circumstances that are completely beyond their control.

The question “what is the impact on ordinary people?” is not a simple one to answer, because everyone experienced – or experiences – the kreppa differently. How it manifested in individual lives or households depends so much on their circumstances before the meltdown. However, I can say this: no one in Iceland has remained unaffected. In a close-knit society such as this one, everyone feels the impact in one way or another. We have all been affected by the rapid devaluation of the króna, the resulting sharp rise in the cost of living, the inflation, the corresponding increase in our mortgages, and so on.

And everyone has been affected on an emotional level. For many people, the meltdown in autumn 2008 was an intensely traumatic experience. And of course the aftermath has been a rollercoaster ride, from the fear and anxiety that gripped everyone in autumn 2008, to the upsurge of anger during the Kitchenware Revolution, to the intense frustration of waiting for those culpable to be brought to justice, to struggling with the fallout in the form of debt or unemployment or something else.

Earlier this year, I was commissioned to write an article about the effects of the kreppa on ordinary people. As I started interviewing different individuals and hearing their stories, I became more and more fascinated by this aspect of the meltdown – the various facets that are the personal reflections of the Big Picture.

And so, I’ve decided to launch a small collection of those stories as an e-book, which I’ve called Living Inside the Meltdown. I’m just putting the finishing touches on it now, and it will be available through this website, hopefully as early as next week.

In the book, ten people share their experiences of the meltdown:

  • A man in his thirties whose two homes went into foreclosure and is moving to Norway with his girlfriend
  • A single mother who was studying abroad during the meltdown and found herself cut off financially when currency restrictions were put in place
  • A police officer who guarded the parliament buildings during the Kitchenware Revolution
  • A Nicaraguan-Icelandic couple who were living outside Iceland during the meltdown and who returned home to an entirely different landscape
  • Two men from Portugal who had come to Iceland to work in the building sector and who were laid off after the collapse
  • A small business owner who, after many years of operations, was suddenly forced to pay for all goods up front because foreign suppliers did not trust Icelanders
  • A woman who was working as a portfolio manager for Glitnir bank, managing the assets of affluent individuals, when the bank collapsed

Like I said, I am putting the finishing touches on this now and will be launching the book probably next week.

Stay tuned!

Comments

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  • kevin oconnor,waterford ireland April 23, 2010, 1:33 pm

    Interesting idea Alda, particularly for the little people like me, how Icelanders cope with mortgages that double, the inflation, by rights everything imported must have just about doubled in price in the supermarkets, unless of course they were ripping you off blind before the kreppa and can take a hit on the margins, whats the name of that guy that owned 70% of icelandic supermarkets ha ha ?.Also how did Iceland become so expensive before, its taken the halving of the krona to make rents in Reykjavik acceptable in euro terms 600 pm euros for a 2 bed. You were nearly to the point of taking the crown of expensive away from the usual culprits Sweden,Switzerland,Monaco etc unlike Berlin sexy but poor get a flat for 50,000 euros. I myself live in an Ireland of expense (forty shades of Greed) But can get battered cod fillets 1 kilo for €5 from my favourite store ALDI how much do they pay in Iceland for cod ?

  • Margrét Lukka April 23, 2010, 1:40 pm

    Cool! Looking forward to it! Gotta say Alda, as an Icelander living abroad, your blog really delivers the personal, homey news of whats happening “back home”! It gives a whole other insight to current events than just reading the on-line paper. Thanks!

  • Margrét Lukka April 23, 2010, 1:41 pm

    … ups… should read: …the on-line papers….

  • Michael Lewis April 23, 2010, 2:47 pm

    “A man in his thirties whose two homes went into foreclosure …”

    Interesting. Was there lots of buy-to-let speculation in Iceland?
    Not that I’m suggesting this man was a buy to let speculator. Its rare for people to have two homes mortgaged. They do it in the UK, but thats for people who want to speculate on real estate yields.

  • alda April 23, 2010, 3:05 pm

    Mike – no, some people were just extremely unlucky, getting caught somewhere between buying and selling a home.

  • kevin oconnor,waterford ireland April 23, 2010, 3:14 pm
  • Michael Lewis April 23, 2010, 5:15 pm

    “no, some people were just extremely unlucky, getting caught somewhere between buying and selling a home.”

    That’s incredibly unlucky, and can affect someone for years after I would assume.

    For my trip to Iceland I’ve only been quotes room rates in EUR and fly fishing guides offered me a choice of EUR, USD or GBP payment. The ISK wasn’t an option 😉

    “A small business owner who, after many years of operations, was suddenly forced to pay for all goods up front because foreign suppliers did not trust Icelanders”

    I suspect it was distrust of Icelandic banks, rather than Icelanders per se. Perhaps as a result of the actions of a certain G Brown and Co. But you don’t want to get me started on that…

  • Joerg April 23, 2010, 6:24 pm

    This is a very interesting perspective of the meltdown. I have read a book by Halldór Gudmundsson in German (“Wir sind alle Isländer”), which also provided some chapters about ‘ordinary people’. I’m looking forward to yours.

  • bun April 23, 2010, 8:53 pm

    Alda, this sounds like a great piece of work! You are absolutely right, there is not enough reporting on how the kreppa has affected the Average Joe so thank you very much for this! Believe me, all your hard work is highly appreciated! 🙂

    PS. Just let me figure out how this Pay Pal thing works, and you’ll get a donation from me.. soonish, I promise!

  • Sue April 23, 2010, 11:42 pm

    Alda, would you be so kind as to convey this link for Michael please?

    http://www.fishpal.com/Norse/Iceland/FishingCompetition.asp?dom=Iceland
    (You may remember helping me out with the embedded vedur.is code for this site.)

    I look forward to reading more before my inaugural visit in June – and yes, I too will be fishing, amongst other things! Takk fyrir. 🙂

  • jen April 24, 2010, 9:43 am

    I don’t get the commercial products being sold on this site. Seems to devalue it’s offering and the style of humor is… kitschy… sorry. 🙁

  • Marc April 24, 2010, 10:28 am

    Not sure how an e-book works. Is that a pdf file of a book or something? Or do you need a device (other than a computer) to read it? How can I order it?

  • alda April 24, 2010, 1:41 pm

    jen – clearly you and I don’t share the same sense of humour.

    Marc – to be honest, I’m figuring it out as I go along. But I can tell you that an e-book is set up pretty much like a regular book, but is saved as a PDF. You download it onto your computer and it can also be read by Kindle and such devices. But don’t worry – I’ll provide the proper instructions when the time comes. 🙂

  • Michael Lewis April 24, 2010, 2:42 pm

    Sue, I’ll take a look at that link, thanks.

  • Linguaphile April 24, 2010, 2:55 pm

    Looking forward to it! I really like the idea of hearing the perspectives of regular people about life, and wish our history books had more of that.

    I worked on a project for more than eight years that involved interviewing and writing about people who lived and worked in the same neighborhood. There are so many people who we all can learn from–it’s great that you’re giving them a voice in Iceland.

  • geo8rge April 27, 2010, 9:35 pm

    What about the baby boom? What propelled it? Did couples just find they could now afford family formation? Or something else?

  • Michael Ridpath April 28, 2010, 3:43 pm

    I am looking forward to this with great interest. An excellent idea.