How Iceland Dealt with a Volcanic Financial Meltdown

In an art museum in Reykjavik stands a mural that looks, from a distance, like a pointillist painting. Those who venture closer discover that the work – a creation of artist Ragna Robertsdottir – is fashioned from tiny fragments of volcanic rock and ash from Mt. Katla, long considered one of Iceland’s most ferocious volcanoes. The mural offers a glimpse of Iceland’s genius in taking a powerful destructive force, such as a volcanic eruption, and transforming it through ingenuity and effort into art of breathtaking beauty. Robertsdottir’s creation could well serve as a metaphor for the country’s financial debacle, ten years ago this week, and its revival during the decade that has followed.

During the early 2000s, Iceland saw an unprecedented boom led primarily by its banks. The country’s top three financial institutions — Glitnir, Kaupthing and Landsbanki — rapidly built their international operations, attracting torrents of cash from

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