ORÐSTÍR 2015: A new honorary award for translators of Icelandic literature into a foreign language

Catherine Eyjólfsson and Erik Skyum-Nielsen receive a new honorary award for their translations.

17. September, 2015

On the 10th of September, Catherine Eyjólfsson and Erik Skyum-Nielsen received a new honorary award for translators of Icelandic literature into a foreign language called ORÐSTÍR.

Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, President of Iceland, presented the award to at the presidential estate, Bessastaðir, in relation to the Reykjavik International Literary Festival. Catherine and Erik also took part in panel discussions on translation along with the writers Bergsveinn Birgisson and Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir.

The distribution of Icelandic literature has been growing steadily over the past years and decades. The selfless and devoted work of numerous brilliant translators is the key to this success. In many cases these people have become active advocates of Icelandic culture abroad.

The honorary award ORÐSTÍR, which literally means honour or renown of the word, is meant to highlight the invaluable work of the numerous translators in the field, in addition to being a token of gratitude and encouragement to those translators who receive the award each given time. The award is presented biennially to one or two individuals, who have delivered translations of the highest quality of Icelandic works into another language and in doing so, have brought attention to Icelandic culture on an international level. A part of the award is a generous substance grant to enable translators to strengthen their bonds with the original/target language. This time the award goes to two veteran, very productive translators; Catherine Eyjólfsson, who translates from Icelandic into French, and Erik Skyum-Nielsen, who translates from Icelandic into Danish.

 Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir, Erik Skyum-Nielsen, Ólöf Pétursdóttir, Catherine Eyjólfsson, and Bergsveinn Birgisson during panel discussions at the Reykjavik International Literary Festival.

Catherine Eyjólfsson has translated more than 40 works by Icelandic writers into French. 

Icelandic literature has enjoyed a growing reputation in France over the past years, Icelandic Sagas and works by Halldór Laxness gained a strong foothold in the French book market in the 20th century, and translations of Icelandic contemporary literature into French have been increasing in the 21st century to critical acclaim. One of the key players in the success of Icelandic literature in France is Catherine Eyjólfsson. She moved from France to Iceland in 1972, working as a French teacher for several years until the 90's when she dedicated herself to translation. Catherine has translated more than 40 Icelandic works, including novels and poetry by many of the most renowned writers in Iceland, such as Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir, Einar Már Guðmundsson, Guðbergur Bergsson, Guðrún Eva Mínervudóttir, Gyrðir Elíasson, Ingibjörg Haraldsdóttir, Linda Vilhjálmsdóttir, Pétur Gunnarsson, Sigurbjörg Þrastardóttir, Sjón, Steinunn Sigurðardóttir, Svava Jakobsdóttir, and Thor Vilhjálmsson. Some of these works have been nominated for acclaimed awards, the latest being an award from the University of Lille for Catherine's translation on Svar við bréfi Helgu (Eng. A Reply to Helga's Letter) by Bergsveinn Birgisson, which is presented to both the author and the translator.

Erik Skyum-Nielsen is an active and productive translator of Icelandic literature into Danish. 

He holds a degree in Literary Theory and is a renowned literary critic. Over the past 40 years he has actively promoted Icelandic literature in Denmark, ever since he was hired to teach Danish at the University of Iceland in the mid 70's. He has translated over 40 works into Danish, such as the Sagas and the Poetic Edda, in addition to poetry, novels, and plays by contemporary writers such as Svava Jakobsdóttir, Thor Vilhjálmsson, Stefán Hörður Grímsson, Birgir Sigurðsson, Fríða Á. Sigurðardóttir, Gyrðir Elíasson, and Gerður Kristný. Erik has also discussed Icelandic literature in both lectures and writing. Erik's first translations were published in 1981; a collection of short stories by Icelandic contemporary writers, and a selection of poems by a young Icelandic poet at the time, Einar Már Guðmundsson. Erik has since then translated almost all of Einar's works into Danish, and thus laid the foundations for Einar's success in Denmark. These Danish translations of Einar's works have also played a part in paving the way for other Icelandic contemporary writers into other markets, especially in Scandinavia and Germany.

 Catherine Eyjólfsson and Erik Skyum-Nielsen at Bessastaðir accepting the Orðstír honorary award for translations of Icelandic literature into a foreign language.

ORÐSTÍR standa the Icelandic Literature Centre, the Icelandic Association of Translators and Interpreters, Promote Iceland, Office of the President of Iceland, and the Reykjavik International Literary Festival. Board members this time were; Jón Karl Helgason, Magnea Matthíasdóttir, Kristjana Rós Guðjohnsen, Örnólfur Thorsson, and Stella Soffía Jóhannesdóttir. 

Catherine Eyjólfsson and Erik Skyum-Nielsen at Bessastaðir with the president of Iceland, Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, who presented them with the Orðstír honorary award.


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