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A Portrait of An Eight-Person Town

The Priest’s Ravine by Marzena Skubatz is a portrait of one of the smallest communities in Iceland, Solbrekka, which is situated on Mjoifjordur, one of the most isolated fjords in the country. The so called “Golden Age of Herring,” is long gone, when the village was a hub for the fishing industry. Fishing defined people’s lives in Solbrekka; now many homes sit empty, hinting at better times.

Skubatz has visited Solbrekka every year since 2012, when 18 people lived in the fjord. Now three families, totaling eight people, remain and the school has closed. The only child is 14-year-old Johanna, who “endures life with indifference.” The Priest’s Ravine documents the last people living on Mjoifjordur and preserves a slice of its history.

Seduced by the tranquility of Mjoifjordur, Skubatz documents the daily routine of a community frozen in time.

In the book, Skubatz writes: Fusi and his wife stayed. He was born in the village and is now mayor. Seivur and Erna also stayed, along with Regina and her husband – continuing to fish, although now only taking enough for their small community. Besides fishing Regina has a few sheep. But the unpredictable, harsh climate and physically demanding work involved in living in such a remote location are not attractive prospects for young Icelanders to continue the family farms. Many of them move to larger cities, and the old homes become holiday homes.

The book’s title, The Priest’s Ravine, refers to an Icelandic folktale about a giant troll woman who seduced the village’s priests to leave their church so she could eat the parishioners. One priest succeeded in driving the troll crazy by making hellish noises, freeing the valley from her. Even if the people on Mjoifjordur are no longer driven out by mystical figures, the seclusion of Solbrekka and hardship of daily life leads them to leave their homes sooner or later.

Marzena Skubatz was born in 1978 in Gleiwitz, Poland and has lived in Germany since 1989. She works on personal projects and on commissioned editorial work. Her fascination for remote and inaccessible environments has brought her to the North, where she explores the intimate lives and persistence of people in isolated places.

–Sarah Stacke

The Priest’s Ravine
By Marzena Skubatz
Published by Another Place

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