A marvellous book fair in Göteborg: Language, fantasy, tradition and subjects

Our Icelandic authors featured at five events - Five events showcasing our Icelandic authors

7. October, 2016

This year, the four day Göteborg Book Fair took place September 22nd to 25th and featured several internationally renowned authors, such as Lena Anderson, Herta Müller, David Lagercrantz and Sofi Oksanen. Iceland was represented at the fair, as previous years.

This year, the four day Göteborg Book Fair took place September 22nd to 25th and featured several internationally renowned authors, such as Lena Anderson, Herta Müller, David Lagercrantz and Sofi Oksanen. Iceland was represented at the fair, as previous years. In the spectacular stand, designed by HAF studio, Icelandic books were displayed for passers-by to browse and enjoy, some available in Swedish translation for interested customers. This year, the Icelandic stand showcased books for children and young adults in particular, with authors Þórdís Gísladóttir, Arnar Már Arngrímsson, Ragnhildur Hólmgeirsdóttir, Snæbjörn Brynjarsson and Kjartan Yngvi Björnsson apperaing at five program events, addressing various aspect of their work.

Iceland kicks off the fair

On the very first day of the fair Þórdís Gísladóttir, Arnar Már Arngrímsson and Ragnhildur Hólmgeirsdóttir set the pace at a panel discussion with Gunilla Kindstrand, journalist and literary critic, under the heading Vad skriver de om på sagarnas ö? (What do they write about on the island of the Sagas?) The authors talked about their subject matters and shared their thoughts and ideas on language and writing for children and young adults with the audience.

Copper City (Koparborgin), a fantasy novel for young adults, marks Ragnheiður Hólmgeirsdóttir´s debut as a novelist. Hólmgeirsdóttir, a historian with the Middle Ages as her special field of study, cites the horror movies she overindulged in as a teenager as her main influence.

Arnar Már is a teacher with a passionate interest in language. In his novel Sölva saga unglings (The Saga of Teen Sölvi), he plays around with the concept of language and the various ways in which it changes and develops. Arngrímsson paints a humorous picture of the slowly widening gap between generations and claims the novel is an attempt to understand the modern world. The hero, Sölvi, is „sent off to the country to spend the summer with his grandmother and doesn´t understand the language she speaks. He has never read a book and his reality, as well as his escape from reality, is the internet, where the lingua franca is English. Sölvi is a rapper and a poet in his own right, albeit unwittingly, and as such he takes great liberties with language,“ Arnar Már explains.

Þórdís Gísladóttir discussed her three books about Randalín and Mundi, a couple of mischievous kids who are best friends, get up to all sorts of things and never hesitate to ask questions. „I wanted to write books that work in two dimensions, that is books that children aged 6-7 years would be able to read and enjoy, and that the grown-ups would also like to read to their kids,“ Þórdís says. She lived in Sweden for a number of years and is well versed in Swedish literature and says there are some things an Icelandic writer is allowed that a Swedish writer of children´s books would never get away with – the young protagonists in her books experiment with smoking, to name one example. In Iceland, however, Þórdís points out, the difference between spoken and written language is much greater than in Sweden. All the authors agreed that the pressure to produce written language of high quality was very high and that the school system as well as the literary world in Iceland was far too unwilling to experiment with language and its use.

Icelandic nominees for The Nordic Council Children and Young People's Literature Prize                                                     

Debut novels Koparborgin (Copper City) by Hólmgeirsdóttir and Sölvasaga unglings (Saga of Teen Sölvi) by Arngrímsson are both nominated for The Nordic Council Children and Young People's Literature Prize this year. On Ung scen (The Stage for the Young), one of the various stage venues of the fair, Sigurður Ólafsson, project manager for the prize, chaired a discussion with the two nominees on the special value and importance of writing for children and young adults, the different influences the authors can identify and the significance of being nominated for such a prestigious prize for a first published work.

Poetry on the agenda at the Poetry Plaza (Rum för poesi)

Þórdís Gísladóttir appeared at a poetry event at the Poetry Plaza (Rum för poesi), reading some of the poems from the poetry book Tilfinningarök (Appeal to Emotion) in Icelandic, Swedish and English. The reading was enthusiastically received by the audience, which included several other poets. Gísladóttir is well known for her poetry and children´s books, as well as numerous translations from Swedish. Gísladóttir was a resident of Sweden for a number of years.

Nordic fantasy literature – a literary specialty

On the last day of the fair, Kjartan Yngvi Björnsson and Snæbjörn Brynjarsson, the authors of the trilogy Þriggja heima saga (A Tale of Three Worlds), joined in an animated and interesting discussion under the heading Finns det en nordisk fantasy? (Does the „Nordic Fantasy“ exist?). They discussed the unique status of the Nordic fantasy and whether and how the common Nordic experience of cold, darkness and rich history may have shaped the approach of Nordic writers of fantasy and opened a genre, that is in most ways rather set in its ways, to modern ideology, such as feminism and ecopolitics. Authors Maria Turtchaninoff from Finland and Siri Pettersen from Sweden also participated in the discussion, two writers who share a lot of opinions and ideas about fantasy and fantasy writing.

A book and a discussion on the Panama Papers

This year, discourse on the freedom of expression was a prominent theme of the fair. Journalist Jóhannes Kr. Kristjánsson participated in a discussion on the Panama Papers leak, along with Sven Bergman and Joachim Dyfvermark. They told the audience about the events leading up to the televised interview with the former Prime Minister of Iceland on the renowned Swedish television program Uppdrag granskning (Mission: Investigation) in April this year and discussed the significant points of the case. A book on the Panama leak, written by Bastian Obermeyer and Frederik Obermaier, was published in September and available for purchase at the fair.

This year, a hundred thousand visitors attended the Göteborg Book Fair. 863 people from 28 countries participated as exhibitors and 870 authors and speakers from 38 countires appeared at 422 speaking events. The next Göteborg Book Fair will take place September 28th to October 1st, 2017.

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