Jónas Hallgrímsson Prize awarded

18. November, 2011 News

"It is in the most dog-eared and perused books that the language flourishes," stated the jury for the Jónas Hallgrímsson Prize upon awarding it to   Kristín Marja Baldursdóttir for extraordinary service to the Icelandic language."

Kristín Marja BaldursdóttirThe author Kristín Marja Baldursdóttir received the Jónas Hallgrímsson Prize on November 16, the Day of the Icelandic Language. The prize, named after one of Iceland's most beloved national poets, is awarded for extraordinary service to the Icelandic language.

“Kristín Marja's subject matter is the reality of Icelandic women,” the jury's verdict stated. “She illuminates the life and work, dreams and longings of women. Equal rights for both sexes was her goal when she set out on her writing career, and this is apparent, directly and indirectly, in all of her books. She is an author of the people in the sense that her works are read in every nook and cranny of Icelandic society, and the nation is united in her stories. Her work has also enjoyed popularity abroad, especially in German-speaking countries [...] It is through literature that language survives, but only if it is read, and Kristín Marja has long since captured the attention of the Icelandic people with her graphic descriptions and the colourful prose of a master storyteller. It is in the most dog-eared and worn books that the language flourishes.”

In her acceptance speech, Kristín Marja shared her experiences as an author whose readership, in large part, reads her work in translation:

“When Icelandic authors read from their works abroad, they often receive questions from the audience. One popular question is whether it isn't hard to write in a language that so few people understand. This is probably asked with the poor author's profits in mind. On such occasions, the authors may believe that perhaps the audience is right – being born in Iceland is a handicap. And to better illustrate the difficulties faced by Icelandic authors, they often resort to reading a short excerpt in their mother tongue, emphasizing the alliteration, rolling r-s and pre-aspirated stops of Icelandic, letting the prose flow, with all its weight, over they audience – like an Icelandic waterfall during spring thaw. But the reaction to those readings is always surprising. Instead of saying that Icelandic is an abrasive and cumbersome language, the foreigners say, admiringly: 'Icelandic has so much music in it.'

“I am very proud of receiving the Jónas Hallgrímsson Prize,” she concluded. “I have always had a thing for it – unsurprisingly perhaps, because many titans of the Icelandic language have received it before me. I would like to thank the poets, authors, teachers and musicians of Iceland, as well as my parents, grandfather and grandmother, for enriching my language.”

Kristín Marja's work has been translated into six languages, and enjoys particular popularity in the German-speaking countries. Her newest book, Karlsvagninn (lit. The Big Dipper), was published in Germany by Krüger Verlag in 2011.

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