Oskar Magnusson

Full bio

When Oskar Magnusson (b.1954) graduated from high school, the head teacher wrote the foreword for the school yearbook, dividing his class into two groups. Oskar, however, wasn’t included in either group and the teacher’s description simply ended by saying: “And then there’s Oskar Magnusson: he’s Oskar Magnusson.”

Author of The Defense Attorney, Oskar has had an unusual life. Growing up, he worked for a living during summer vacations and while attending school, as per usual in Iceland. At the age of 17, he was a deck hand on a fishing trawler, as well as a cook and a netman. He also worked as a mason, operated a pneumatic drill, and paved asphalt until finally, he became a firefighter on the American naval base at Keflavik airport. He studied law at the University of Iceland, where he completed a Master’s degree. He worked at the fire department while he was a law student, but later became a journalist for a daily paper in Reykjavík and anchor of programming at RÚV, the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service.

Before he completed his studies, Oskar was news editor at DV, one of Iceland’s daily papers, and after that, while pursuing graduate studies in International Business Law at George Washington University, he was a news writer for a newspaper in Washington D.C. There, he wrote articles about politics and global affairs and regularly attended press conferences at the White House and the U.S. State Department.

Oskar established his own law firm, which he ran with a partner for six years before becoming director of the largest grocery store chain in Iceland, a position he held for many years. After that, he spent 15 years managing the reorganization of several large companies in Iceland: Vodafone Telecom and TM Insurance, as well as the country’s largest daily subscription newspaper, Morgunblaðið, where he also acted as publisher until he left the position in 2015.

Oskar published the short story collection Borðaði ég kvöldmat í gær (‘Did I have Dinner Last night?’) in 2006, and a second collection, Ég sé ekkert svona gleraugnalaus (‘I Can’t See a Thing Without My Glasses’) in 2010, both of which were very well received by readers and critics. One of his short stories, Dr. Amplatz, is included in Dalkey Archive Press' “Best European Fiction”.

His first novel, Látið síga piltar (‘The Reckoning’), came out in 2013, and most recently, his second novel, The Defense Attorney, came out in 2016. It is the first book in a series about lawyer Stefan Bjarnason, who actually first appeared briefly in The Reckoning. Oskar is now working on his second book about Stefan, under the working title ‘The Ambassador’.

Oskar is a well-known figure in Iceland’s public life. He hasn’t hesitated to let his opinions be known over the years, and neither has he hesitated to go against the flow. He’s on the board of several Icelandic corporations, primarily within the fishing industry. He’s known for his sense of humor and wit, and for sometimes being a bit of a card. His books are characterized by their high-quality writing and convey his love for his country and its nature, as well as the special interest he takes in the little details that tend to build up over the course of a day. Oskar lives among the storied settings of the Icelandic sagas, on land where he raises a few sheep, cultivates his fields and hay, and writes.