Quais du Polar by Lilja Sigurdardottir

Icelandic author Lilja Sigurðardóttir’s writes for Stirling University’s Nordic Noir group about her experiences attending a French crime fiction festival.

Nordic Noir

Quais du Polar is France´s biggest festival of crime fiction, attracting tens of thousands of readers every year. The festival is different from many others in the sense that it is a book-selling event on a large scale, and the panels and on-stage interviews with the authors are just the icing on the cake.   The main place is the market on the ground floor at the Palace de Commerce, where all major bookstores in Lyon have their own space, dividing between them the 100 authors that are invited to the festival. Luckily I don´t read French because if I did I’d have had to fit a whole palace’s worth of crime fiction books into my luggage back to Iceland!

It was a great honour for me to be invited to the Quais du Polar Festival. My book Snare was just out in French translation (Piégée) the week…

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Desert Island DVDs – Lilja Sigurðardóttir


Iceland born crime writer Lilja Sigurðardóttir is one of Iceland Noir’s co-organisers. With her fourth crime novel on the way, Lilja is also an award-winning playwright. Her debut play Big Babies (Stóru Börnin) became critically acclaimed and won the Icelandic Theatre Prize Gríman as “Best play of the year” in 2014.

Lilja´s latest thriller, Netið, will be published in Iceland next October by Forlagid publishing. It is the second book in a trilogy about lesbian protagonist Sonia who gets drawn into drug-smuggling in the aftermath of the Icelandic financial meltdown. When almost-retired customs officer Bragi gets interested in her, a cat-and-mouse chase begins so Sonia needs to constantly find new and innovative ways to get the drugs through the border.

The rights to Lilja’s first book have been sold to France, Norway and the Czech Republic. Film rights have been sold to Palomar Pictures.

Outspoken about the importance of more queer characters in fiction and film, Lilja lists some of her favorite DVD´s with lesbian themes.


Mädchen in Uniform (1958)

‘A second remake of a 1930´s film, the story, that was originally based on a yet older play, is solid enough to have inspired a third remake that became quite popular in the queer crowd, called Loving Annabelle (2006). A young girl is sent to a boarding school and falls in love with her teacher. There is something about the 1958 version that I very much like, the soft light, the boarding school setting, the German language. And of course Lili Palmer as Fräulein Elisabeth von Bernburg.’


The Killing of Sister George (1968)

‘One of my favourite films as it had quite an impact on me when I was very young. I still cannot decide if this film is more horrible than wonderful, as it is a historical document and emotionally had a big meaning for me but at the same time it ridicules and demonizes the butch woman, as is still in fashion today judging by a very recent American prison drama. I still have not met anyone else that likes this film, so maybe it´s just the playwright in me as this film is also based on a play.’


Vampyros Lesbos (1971)

‘I choose this one from a big group of very alike films as lesbian vampires are an important genre. Firstly a disguised expression of lesbian love and desire created by Hollywood censorship, the lesbian vampire had a big comeback in the 70´s. Some of the many lesbian vampire films created in that era are absolutely priceless! This being one of them. It really doesn´t matter if you don´t understand German. Maybe it´s even better if you don´t’


101 Reykjavík (2000)

‘Of course I have to have one Icelandic title on the list and because of my theme, it has to be this one. Made in 2000 by one of Iceland´s leading directors Baltasar Kormákur, it tells the story of a thirty year old unemployed man still living with his mother. One day his mum´s flamenco teacher (Victoria Abril) moves in and everything changes. It is a funny film and so very much Reykjavík in essence. And it doesn´t spoil that my friend Hanna María Karlsdóttir plays the mother.’


The Duke of Burgundy (2014)

‘A feast for ones senses, the Duke of Burgundy, is truly a European film with its multi-national cast and crew. Directed by Peter Strickland and loaded with prizes, this superb piece of cinema stars Sidse Babett Knudsen, whom many people know as the Danish Prime minister from TV-series Borgen. The film´s themes are dominance and submission and it explores how far one can go for love. And then there are moths and butterflies. Lots and lots of moths and butterflies’

Thanks to Lilja Sigurðardóttir and Iceland Noir.

Iceland Noir booking details