Voices from Iceland / Röster från Island - a Great Success at Göteborg Book Fair 2015

It is safe to say that Iceland's programme Voices from Iceland / Röster från Island at the Göteborg Book Fair in Sweden this year was a success. A total of fifteen Icelandic writers and poets participated in numerous events.

5. October, 2015

It is safe to say that Iceland's programme Voices from Iceland / Röster från Island at the Göteborg Book Fair in Sweden this year was a success. A total of fifteen Icelandic writers and poets participated in numerous events.

Arnaldur Indriðason and Yukiko Duke at Göteborg Book Fair 2015

The fifteen participating authors held book signings at the end of events such as discussions and seminars, and it was evident that they have numerous fans and dedicated readers in Sweden – and the Swedish media showed great interest too. 

Illugi Gunnarsson, the Icelandic Minister of Education, Science, and Culture, gave a speech at the opening of the Fair, focusing on current affairs. His speech was warmly received as he took a philosophical viewpoint on the main issues of concern today, stressing that these need to be approached with a sense of empathy and humanity.

There was a steady flow of visitors to the Icelandic stand, which was noted for its innovative and modern design by HAF Studio.


The Sagas of the Icelanders and Contemporary Writers

One of the many events on the Voices from Iceland programme centred on the influence of the style and narrative of the Icelandic Sagas on contemporary writers, Icelandic and Swedish. The renowned professor Lars Lönnroth sat down with the Swedish writers Erik Anderson and Klas Östergrein and the Icelandic writers Einar Kárason and Gerður Kristný. There was obviously an interest in the topic as the seminar was in a large hall that was packed with people. The discussion was fast, interesting and entertaining. Einar and Gerður did particularly well, and Gerður read from the Swedish translation of her work Blóðhófnir.

Icelandic Children's Books

Bergrún Íris Sævarsdóttir, who is nominated for the Nordic Council Children's and Young People's Literature Prize for her book Vinur minn, Vindurinn (Eng. My friend, the Wind), says of her participation in the Gothenburg Book Fair: "The Gothenburg Book Fair is the first Fair I take part in. So I didn't know what to expect and when I arrived it took me a while to apprehend the size of the Fair – there were around 100 000 visitors in the area. It was truly an honour to be a part of this great group of Icelandic writers, especially this year, when Iceland was in the spotlight with the Voices from Iceland programme. It's evident that the literary scene is interested in Iceland and Icelandic writers, our storytelling tradition and culture.”

Thórarinn Leifsson, Bergrún Íris Sævarsdóttir, Áslaug Jónsdóttir, and Katti Hoflin.

Icelandic Crime authors at Göteborg Book Fair

Árni Þórarinsson participated in a seminar on crime fiction at the Fair, and his Swedish publisher presented Árni's latest Swedish translation of his book, Den sjunde sonen (Eng. The Seventh Son). “What struck me at the Book Fair was how strong a standing he book seems to have and how much interest was among the public who flocked to the Fair. The presentation of Icelandic authors and translations of their works really benefited from that. The book really rocked in Gothenburg.” Árni said when asked what was the highlight of the Gothenburg Book Fair for him.

Arnaldur Indriðason, Unni Lindell, Árni Þórarinsson, Monica Kristensen, and Johanna Hallström.

Iceland and Love

On the second day of the Fair Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir and Jón Kalman Stefánsson had a discussion with the journalist Mats Almård. Auður's The Greenhouse and Jón's Fiskarnir hafa enga fætur (Eng. The Fish Have no Feet) are among brand new Swedish translations, both published by Svane Weyler förlag. The title of the discussion was Iceland and Love, and the lively conversation took unexpected twists and turns, much to the delight of the large audience. Topics included manhood, bravery, parenthood, banksters, vegetation, strange places – and the courage needed to face your own weaknesses.

5.6 kg of Sagas

One of the last events on the programme was a presentation of the Sagas of the Icelanders that were published in new Swedish translations a couple of years ago. There seems to be renewed interest in the old Norse sagas after all the Sagas of the Icelanders were published in brad new Swedish, Danish, and Norwegian translations. Kristinn Jóhannesson and Gunnar D Hansson, who both had a seat on the Swedish editorial board, alongside Karl G Johanson, talked about the work behind this mammoth task, and all in all 20 translators worked on the project. The Swedish edition of the Sagas is published in five volumes that weigh a total of 5.6 kg. The translations were intended to bring the stories over into modern Swedish in order to reach young and new readers. The translation and publication of the Sagas was endorsed by the Swedish Academy (and Torten Söderbergs Stiftelse), and the main goal was to make them accessible and understandable to readers, especially the dróttkvæði, which provided the greatest challenge. The editors decided from the outset to keep all names of people and places as they are in the original texts. They believe that the Sagas are a formidable source of ideas for contemporary writers, whether they are novelists or authors of computer games or some other forms of narrative. 

Icelandic crime writer Arnaldur Indriðason chats with Henrik Lindvall, his Swedish publisher at Norstedts stand at Göteborg Book fair 2015.

A Diverse Programme

In addition to the aforementioned there were several other events:

Andri Snær Magnason held an entertaining lecture / stand up about his wide-ranging writing career in front of a full house.

Jónína Leósdóttir and Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, former Prime Minister of Iceland, discussed their relationship with regard to Jónína's book, Jóhanna and I, and there was a screening from the documentary, Jóhanna, which will premiere in Iceland in October.

Arnaldur Indriðason took part in several events, as he is immensely popular among Swedish readers and the media that followed him around.

Sigurbjörg Þrastardóttir, Gerður Kristný, Kári Tulinius, and Valgerður Þóroddsdóttir read poetry in Rum för poesi.

Einar Már Guðmundsson talked about his book, Íslenskir kóngar (Eng. Icelandic Kings) that was recently published in Swedish.

Children's book authors Bergrún Íris Sævarsdóttir, Áslaug Jónsdóttir, and Thórarinn Leifsson discussed their careers and talked about their latest books in two separate and popular events.

The reading horse Sleipnir represented Reykjavik Unesco City of Literature at the Book Fair, horsing around with visitors at the Book Fair.

Photographer Páll Stefánsson held an exhibition of photographs from his latest book, Iceland Exposure.

Author Jónína Leósdóttir and Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, former Prime Minister of Iceland, after the seminar on Jónína's book, Jóhanna and I. 

Author and poet Gerður Kristný and the reading horse Sleipnir. 

Illugi Gunnarsson, Icelandic Minister for Education, Science and Culture, giving a speech at the opening of the Göteborg Book Fair 2015.


Andri Snær Magnason in discussion at the Göteborg Book Fair.


Reception by the Ambassador for Iceland in Sweden at the Icelandic stand.

Einar Már Guðmundsson signs books for enthusiastic readers.

Fish Have No FeetFiskarna har inga fötter) by Jón Kalman Stefánsson (translator: John Swedenmark) and Rosa Candida by Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir (translator: Ylva Hellerud) were recently published in Swedish.  


Kamp Knox by Arnald Indriðason was recently published in Swedish, translated by Ylva Hellerud.  


Jón Kalman Stefánsson signs books for his Swedish readers.


Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir chats with a reader.


Young poets: Valgerður Þóroddsdóttir and Kári Tulinius read their poetry in Rum för poesi.

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