Great interest in Icelandic literature in France

11. November, 2019 News

Over the past three years Icelandic books are translated into French more than any other language, or over fifty titles. Authors from Iceland are frequent guests at literary events all over France – and there was a translators' seminar in Paris.

There is great interest in Icelandic literature in France and over the past few years more Icelandic books are translated into French than any other language, and in three years over fifty Icelandic books have been published in French. For instance, almost all novels by Arnaldur Indriðason and Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir are available in French translation, as both of them have loyal readers. Several other authors have garnered attention on France and many regularly participate in literary festivals and other events in France.

Translators are Vital

The popularity of Icelandic books in France is in no small part thanks to ardent translators who spread the word beyond the island and introduce Icelandic books to interested publishers and readers in their native country. Two French translators have received Orðstír, an honorary award for translators of Icelandic literature; Catherine Eyjólfsson in 2015 and Eric Boury in 2017, both are prolific and accomplished translators who have each translated around 50 Icelandic works into French. In an interesting interview Eric talks about his passion for Icelandic, different works of literature, and the role of the translator.

But it has now come to this – it is becoming difficult to meet the demand for Icelandic books in France as there are too few active translators, and this needs to be amended.

Translators' Seminar in Paris

Last autumn the Icelandic Embassy in Paris held a translators' seminar with translators, Icelandic writers and French publishers. One of the goals of the seminar was to evoke interest in the profession of the translator and in Icelandic Studies, which are taught at two universities in France. The programme was organised in a cooperation with the Vigdís Finnbogadóttir Institution and the Icelandic Literature Centre, with participants such as writers Hrafnhildur Hagalín, Pétur Gunnarsson, and Steinunn Sigurðardóttir, and the translators Catherine Eyjólfsson, Éric Boury, and Jean-Christophe Salaün.

Writers Visit France

Icelandic writers frequently participate in literary events all over France, such as the literary and culture festival Les Boréales, that is held annually in the city of Caen. Several Icelandic authors and artists make their way to this festival that has from its very beginning focused on the literature and culture of the Nordic and Baltic regions. Three Icelandic authors participate in the festival this year – Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir, Gyrðir Elíasson, and Dagur Hjartarson, but over the past two years the following authors have appeared at the festival: Jón Kalman Stefánsson, Sjón, Lilja Sigurðardóttir, Ragnar Helgi Ólafsson, Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir, Steinunn Jóhannesdóttir, Ragnar Jónasson, Sigríður Hagalín Björnsdóttir, Hildur Knútsdóttir, Yrsa Sigurðardóttir, Einar Már Guðmundsson, and Arnar Már Arngrímsson.

Prix Médicis étranger 2019 goes to Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir

Icelandic books and authors have received prizes and awards in France. Award-winning writer Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir received the esteemed Prix Médicis étranger 2019 for Ungfrú Ísland (Miss Iceland) translated by Eric Boury into French. Her work has attracted praise for its fresh perspective and her dark, incisive humor. She received the prestigious Nordic Council Literature Prize for her previous novel Ör (Hotel Silence) in 2018. Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir's books are published in 33 countries.

Translations into French

Almost fifty French translations have recently been published or are soon to be published in France; novels, crime fiction, children books, young adult fiction, graphic novels, poetry, and non-fiction. It is therefore safe to say that publication of Icelandic books is flourishing in France. The following are examples of recent or soon to be released publications of Icelandic books in French:

Sextíu kíló af sólskini (Sixty Kilos Of Sunshine) by Hallgrímur Helgason, published by Gallimard.

Stormfuglar (Storm Birds) by Einar Kárason, published by Grasset.

Hið heilaga orð (The Holy Word) and Eyland (Island) by Sigríður Hagalín Björnsdóttir, transl. Eric Boury, publ. Gaïa Editions.

Hans Blær (Hans Blaer) and Gæska (Kindness) by Eiríkur Örn Norðdahl, publ. Editions Métailié.

Elín, ýmislegt (A Fist or a Heart) by Kristín Eiríksdóttir, publ. Les Editions Noir sur Blanc.

Stúlkan hjá brúnni, Myrkrið veit, Synir duftsins, Dauðarósir, and Petsamo by Arnaldur Indriðason, transl. Eric Boury, publ. Editions Métailié.

Aðventa (Advent) by Gunnar Gunnarsson, publ. by Editions Zulma.

Saga Ástu (publ. Grasset), Himnaríki og helvíti (publ. An Alarc'h), Eitthvað á stærð við alheiminn (publ. Gallimard), and Fiskarnir hafa enga fætur (publ. Gallimard) by Jón Kalman Stefánsson, transl. Eric Boury.

Landslag er aldrei asnalegt (Landscape is never corny) by Bergsveinn Birgisson, publ. Actes sud.

Andköf, Rof, and Dimma by Ragnar Jónasson, publ. Martinére.

Sæmd (Honour) by Guðmundur Andri Thorsson, transl. Eric Boury, publ. Gallimard.

Þrír sneru aftur (Three Turned Back) by Guðbergur Bergsson, transl. Eric Boury, publ. Editions Métailié.

Passamyndir (Snapshots) and Íslenskir kóngar (Icelandic Kings) by Einar Már Guðmundsson, transl. Eric Boury, publ. Editions Zulma.

Óláfs saga ins helga, transl. François-Xavier Dillman, publ. Editions Gallimard.

Gombri by Elín Edda, transl. Anne Balanant, publ. Mécanique Générale.

Alli Nalli og tunglið (Alli Nalli and the Moon) by Vilborg Dagbjartsdóttir and Sigríður Björnsdóttir, transl. Jean-Christophe Salaün, publ. Albin Michel Jeunesse.

Vetrarfrí (Winter Dark) and Vetrarhörkur (Winter Frost) by Hildur Knútsdóttir, transl. Jean-Christophe Salaün, publ. Editions Thierry Magnier.

Sölvasaga unglings (The Saga of Sölvi the Young) by Arnar Már Arngrímsson, transl. Jean-Christophe Salaün, publ. Editions Thierry Magnier.

Fjallið sem yppti öxlum by Gísli Pálsson, transl. Carine Chichereau, publ. Gaïa Editions.

Svik, Búrið, and Netið by Lilja Sigurðardóttir, transl. Jean- Christophe Salaün, publ. Editions Métailié.

Heima and Ástin og lífið og fleiri ljóð by Þór Stefánsson, transl. Nicole Barrière, publ. L'Harmattan.

Síðasta ástarjátningin (The Last Confession of Love) by Dagur Hjartarson, transl. Jean-Christophe Salaün, publ. Éditions La Peuplade.

Ungfrú Ísland (Miss Iceland) by Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir, translation Eric Boury, publ. Editions Zulma.

Sandárbókin by Gyrðir Elíasson, transl. Catherine Eyjólfsson, publ. Éditions La Peuplade.

13 dagar by Árni Þórarinsson, transl. Eric Boury, publ. Editions Métailié.

Bréf frá Bútan and Fundur Útvarpsráðs þann 14. mars 1984 og mótandi áhrif hans á kynverund drengsins og fleiri sögur by Ragnar Helgi Ólafsson, transl. Jean-Christophe Salaün, publ. Editions Passage(s).

Ör (Hotel Silence) by Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir, transl. Catherine Eyjólfsson, publ. Editions Zulma.

Gráspörvar og ígulker by Sjón, transl. Séverin Daucourt Fridriksson, publ. Editions LansKine.

Reisubók Guðríðar Símonardóttur by Steinunn Jóhannesdóttir, transl. Eric Boury, publ. Gaïa Editions.

Sögumaður (Narrator) by Bragi Ólafsson, transl. Robert Guillemette, publ. Actes sud.

Latest news

Office summer closing - 29. June, 2020 News

Due to summer vacations, the Icelandic Literature Center's office will be closed in July. 


A list of active translators from Icelandic into several languages on our website! - 24. June, 2020 News

Literary translators from Icelandic into several foreign languages can be found on the website, together with information about their education, career and selected translations.


Literary greetings from Iceland - 19. June, 2020 News

If you have any questions, or would like further information on Icelandic literature, writers, publishers or grants, we would love to hear from you!


All news