Reaching New Readers

By Hrefna Haraldsdóttir, managing director of The Icelandic Literature Center

5. December, 2018 News

Translators of Icelandic literature into foreign languages play a key role in reaching new readers all over the world.

We write in a language of a few and place our trust in translators. I therefore dedicate this award to them,” 

said author Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir upon accepting the Nordic Council Literature Prize recently.

By dedicating the award to translators, Auður Ava highlights their importance to writers who write in small linguistic areas such as Iceland. By translating the books, the reader group multiplies and the authors' ideas and issues garner attention far and wide; their voices carry out into the world.

International interest in Icelandic literature is substantial and growing. Last year we saw a record number of Icelandic books translated into other languages, 100 works were translated into 30 different languages.

Increasing distribution of Icelandic literature can in part be traced to interest in the country and the nation, but it is also due to systematic promotion of Icelandic literature abroad over the past years, such as with participation in principal annual international book fairs.

One of the roles of the Icelandic Literature Centre is to promote Icelandic literature abroad. Icelandic publishers are also very active in this regard. Furthermore, the authors themselves are ardent in following through translations of their works, appearing in various literary events and meeting with readers. But the key figures in all this are the people who translate from Icelandic into other languages, and it is therefore vital to strengthen the bond with translators and encourage them in their work.

To show appreciation for the importance of their work, and in order to pave the way for new translators, the Icelandic Literature Centre hosted an international translators' seminar in Reykjavik last year for translators of Icelandic literature from various parts of the world. The seminar was a great success and plans are already underway for another seminar in the spring of 2019. In addition, the honorary award Orðstír is presented every other year to translators of Icelandic literature into foreign languages.

Good translators are invaluable ambassadors of Icelandic literature abroad, and their ambitious work is a great service to Icelandic culture – “by rewriting our books in their own languages” – as Auður Ava so beautifully put it in her acceptance speech. 

Translators of Icelandic literature into foreign languages play a key role in reaching new readers all over the world.

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