Iceland’s Nobel Prize winning author Halldor Laxness sets his novel, ‘Brekkukots Annall (trans: The Fish Can Sing)’ in the area of Reykjavik just across from the National Museum where all these peat spades are housed. Brekkukot was based on a real farmhouse, Melkot, which was located between the cemetery and the Reykjavikurtjorn lake just off what is now the city centre. Built in the 18th C. it was a double gabled traditional turf structure. Laxness’s parents had met there whilst working as farmhands and he had fond memories of it, its last tenant being a great aunt, before it was demolished in 1915 to make way for the grand suburban houses which now occupy the site.
As well as the cottage itself being of turf construction the use of peat as a fuel is also described in the book.
“The late Bjorn of Brekkukot was born and bred in this part of the world; his father had been a farmer here in Brekkukot when it had been a farm with its own meadows on the south side of the Lake, where, later, peat-pits were dug to supply this future capital city with fuel.”
“I cannot remember her otherwise than bowed and toothless, with a bit of a cough and red-rimmed eyes from having to stand before the open fire in the kitchen-smoke of Brekkukot, and before that in other cottages whose names I did not know. There might sometimes have been a little soot in the wrinkles of her face…”