Gunnars, Kristjana

Kristjana Gunnars, poet, writer, editor, translator (b at Reykjavik, Iceland 19 Mar 1948). Kristjana Gunnars was educated at Oregon State University and, after immigrating to Canada in 1969, at the University of Regina and the University of Manitoba. She taught English and creative writing at the University of Alberta, where she attained the rank of professor emeritus. She then moved to British Columbia. Kristjana Gunnars's award-winning work affirms her Icelandic roots, and myth and folklore form a body of experience out of which her imagined personae speak.

Kristjana Gunnars's first book of poems, One-Eyed Moon Maps (1980), makes extensive use of Nordic mythology. Settlement Poems (1980, 1981), a 2-volume narrative cycle, examines the hardships of Icelandic settlers in Canada, as do poems in Wake-Pick Poems (1981) and The Axe's Edge (1983). Exiles Among You was published in 1996 and won Alberta's Stephán G. Stephansson poetry prize.

Kristjana Gunnars describes her work as a cross-genre combination of poetry, fiction, and essays. The Prowler (1989), winner of the McNally Robinson Book of the Year Award, is a self-conscious meditation on the act of writing and how "a story repeats the attempt at telling itself." This concern is echoed in Zero Hour (1991), a nonfictional account of her father's final sickness and her grief following his death. The exploration of loss is also central to Night Train to Nykobing (1998), a novel in which the narrator observes that "inside every greeting there is also a farewell." In The Rose Garden: Reading Marcel Proust (1998), the protagonist is a Canadian literary scholar on study leave in Germany. The narrator's involvement in books on the one hand and a love relationship on the other creates a surprising blend of fact and fiction. The Rose Garden won the Georges Bugnet Award. Gunnars's short story collection Any Day But This was published in 2004.

Kristjana Gunnars has written and edited critical studies of Canadian literature, including Unexplored Fictions: New Icelandic Canadian Writing (1989) and Crossing the River: Essays in Honor of Margaret Laurence (1988). Gunnars has also translated Icelandic writing, including Canadian poet Stephán STEPHANSSON's Selected Prose and Poetry (1988). Her collection of essays, Stranger at the Door: Writers and the Act of Writing was published in 2004.