Mikael Torfason may not be a name that you are familiar with. Yet, this Icelander novelist, playwright, screenwriter, journalist and director is well-known in Iceland. He is also a former Jehovah’s Witness. I discovered him quite by chance, after watching an Icelandic TV show on Netflix entitled, The Valhalla Murders.
If you know nothing about The Valhalla Murders, it is a TV show set in modern-day Reykjavik, loosely based on events that took place in a state-run institution for troubled young boys in the 1940’s. For those who are interested, there are a number of scenes involving Jehovah’s Witnesses, including one where one of the main characters attends a funeral service at a kingdom hall.
Curiously, the Jehovah’s Witness adult males are all depicted with beards, which is at odds with reality. However, this seems to be a dig at their unbiblical requirement to have male members clean-shaven. Whether Mikael Torfason is responsible for this portrayal, I do not know. In collaboration with three other writers, Torfason was involved in the writing of all episodes.
After watching the show, I did a quick search on google for the writer/writers of the show. It wasn’t long before I found contact details for Mikael Torfason. It turns out that he has his own website named after himself, mikaeltorfason.com. I reached out to him and asked if he or any of the other writers had a connection to Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Within a few hours, he responded.
He informed me that he partly grew up in the Jehovah’s Witnesses and wrote three books in Icelandic about his family. He has been trying to get a publishing deal in the English speaking world without success. However, he has managed to have all his books translated into German.
Lost in Paradise – A Memoir
He has managed to self-published his memoir in English about his life in Jehovah’s Witnesses. It is entitled, Lost In Paradise – A Memoir. Currently only available in Kindle Edition. The German edition is available in Kindle Edition, Audiobook and Hardcover.
The book gives the reader a very candid look into the world of a young boy in the early 1970’s who’s father has embraced the religious beliefs of Jehovah’s Witnesses with militant discipline. Mikael Torfason dedicates his memoir to the only person, other than himself, that is a hero in this sometimes funny, but overwhelmingly sad saga that unfolds as you turn each page.
Torfason’s story may seem more like a work of fiction than one of reality for those who have never grown up in the Jehovah’s Witnesses. But for those of us who have been reared within the religious group, we only know too well that this is most certainly a work of facts.
Mikael Torfason lays bear the immediately doomed relationship his parents found themselves in after a haphazard marriage. Torfason weaves his parents’ difficult marriage life with the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ belief that the end of the world was coming in 1975, at least no later than 1977. That belief was the only thing that seemed to hold that fragile marriage together.
He reveals the direct and potentially disastrous impact the blood transfusion policy had on his first few months and years of life. He had a true hero fighting for him throughout his early years in hospital, and it wasn’t a member of his family.
Without him, Torfason may not be alive today to tell his story.
Mikael Torfason gives us a brief understanding of Jehovah’s Witnesses’ doctrine at the time. He also gives us a thoroughly delightful – and shocking – view of Icelandic life in those days. He tells us too about how the Jehovah’s Witnesses very slowly got a footing in that country of ice and snow.
It’s a book I highly recommend to all Jehovah’s Witnesses, former Jehovah’s Witnesses, those studying with Jehovah’s Witnesses, and those interested in the life and beliefs of Jehovah’s Witnesses.