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Inspired by Iceland

Reykjavik UNESCO City of Literature

17/03/2012 | By | 3 Replies More

reykjavikReykjavik Iceland

Reykjavik was designated as a UNESCO City of Literature in August 2011, the fifth city in the world and the first non-native English speaking one to receive the honorary title.

Reykjavik City of Literature

Reykjavik is one of the city in the world to be designated as a UNESCO City of Literature, joining Edinburgh in Scotland, Melbourne in Australia, Iowa City in the USA and Dublin in Ireland. The title is a permanent one, under the condition that the city fulfills its commitments relative to the title. UNESCO Cities of Literature are part of the larger UNESCO Creative Cities Network, of which Reykjavik is the 29th member.

Icelandic Literature


Photograph: Ragnar Th. Sigurðsson

Works of Icelandic medieval literature rank among the world’s most important cultural artifacts. Still read the world over, The Icelandic Sagas, which tell of extensive family disputes between bloodthirsty Vikings, are a case in point. A new complete collection was published in Germany, year 2011, but a similar project was done by Penguin for the English-speaking market several years ago. The medieval scripts can be viewed at a permanent exhibition at the Culture House in Reykjavík, and currently some of them are part of Icelandic artist Gabríela Fridriksdóttir’s exhibitionCrepusculum at Schirn Kunsthalle in Frankfurt Germany, 2011.


The crime novelist, Arnaldur Indridason

The contemporary Icelandic literary scene is booming and Reykjavík is home to a number of authors who have received recognition for their writing, both on the domestic market and abroad. Some of these authors have won international awards, for example the successful crime novelist Arnaldur Indridason, well known for his Reykjavik-based crime novels and Einar Már Guðmundsson, which has published novels, short stories and poetry and has also written extensively on culture and social issues. He has been recognized for his writing in Iceland and abroad and for instance received the Nordic Council’s Literature Prize in 2005, the Norwegian Bjørnson Prize and the Karen Blixen Honorary Prize.


The writer, Einar Már Guðmundsson, The Swedish Academy’s Nordic Literature Prize winner in 2012

The Swedish Academy announces on March 16th 2012 that the Icelandic writer Einar Már Guðmundsson will receive the Academy’s Nordic Literature Prize in 2012 for his contribution to literature. The prize will be presented to the writer in Stockholm on April 11th. The Swedish Academy’s Nordic Literary Prize has been presented annually since 1986. It is considered to be one of the most prestigious Nordic prizes for literature and is often called the Nordic Nobel, or the “little Nobel”. Einar Már Guðmundsson is the third Icelandic writer to receive the prize.

Several Reykjavík writers have received international and Nordic awards. Halldór Laxness was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1955 for “vivid epic power which has renewed the great narrative art of Iceland”. The House of Halldór Laxness, Gljúfrasteinn, in the capital area can be visited year round.

A number of writers have won the Nordic Council’s Literature Prize, among them are Thor Vilhjálmsson, Einar Már Gudmundsson and Sjón, and authors such as Gudrún Helgadóttir, Kristín Steinsdóttir, Ragnheidur Gestsdóttir and Áslaug Jónsdóttir are winners of The Nordic Children’s Literature Prize. Crime writer Arnaldur Indridason has won prizes abroad, including The Golden Dagger Award. Among other prizes awarded to writers from Reykjavík are the Kairos Preis (Andri Snaer Magnason) and The Swedish Academy’s Nordic Literature Prize (Gudbergur Bergsson: 2004 and Thor Vilhjálmsson: 1992).

Contemporary Icelandic writers are published in increased number in translations throughout the world. What makes them so special?  See this video below and listen to the writer Pétur Gunnarsson´s take on Reykjavík´s literary history.


World Language Center


Vigdis Finnbogadóttir, former president of Iceland (1980-1996)

The Vigdis Finnbogadottir Institute of Foreign Languages is currently working towards establishing a World Language Centre in Reykjavík. The objective is to create an international centre of languages and culture with all available facilities for teaching and research, and for disseminating knowledge of languages and culture.

By establishing such a language centre in Iceland, The Vigdis Finnbogadottir Institute wants to encourage language skills and cultural literacy in Iceland, and to call international attention to the value of such an education.

The institute also wants to expand knowledge of languages and increase general awareness of the importance of language for the culture of individual language communities, and world culture in general.

The World Language Centre will be one of the key partners of Reykjavik UNESCO City of Literature. Ms. Vigdís Finnbogadóttir has been a powerful spokesperson for the importance of language proficiency, both in one’s own native tongue as well as in other languages, and she has made a vital contribution to this field in her career as a teacher, as President of Iceland, and as a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations.


Category: Iceland

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