Reading Iceland

My husband and I will be in Iceland in five short weeks. While I’m excited to (I hope) see the Northern Lights and go on a glacier hike, there’s something really fascinating about Iceland’s literary scene that I’m looking forward to seeing first-hand.

Apparently, one in ten Icelanders will publish a book during their lifetime (so says the BBC). Public benches have barcodes on them, so you listen to a story on your phone while you hang out. Reykjavik is a UNESCO City of Literature. There are several literary festivals throughout the year as well, including Reykjavik Reads in October. This year the festival is dedicated to literature by women, something I’m pretty thrilled about. Even better, a new anthology of writings by Reykjavik women of Icelandic and foreign origin will be published for the festival. I’m hoping to pick up a copy while I’m in the country. Reading is important–the literacy rate in the country hovers around 99 percent.

In advance of that, though, I’m currently reading The Creator by Icelandic author Guðrún Eva Mínervudóttir, which is an odd drama starring a guy who makes sex toys and a woman with an anorexic daughter. Typographical Era loved the novel, so how could I say no to that? After all, they also voted my novel, The Trajectory of Dreams, one of the best of 2013 and a novel they’d like to see made into a film, so I know what kind of novels are on their radar! The Creator is not what I would call a quick read, but it’s definitely enjoyable. Plus, it’s interesting to see how American culture wheedles its way into Icelandic culture.  The references Mínervudóttir uses in her work are sometimes surprising.

A few  years ago I read Fish in the Sky, a YA novel by Icelander Fridrik Erlings, which I quite liked. Now that I think of it, there’s an interesting through-line in terms of feel that runs through both The Creator and Fish in the Sky. Maybe while I’m in Reykjavik I can pick up a few more YA novels written by locals, and see if the feel holds. In the meantime, if you’ve got Icelandic favorites, do let me know. With five weeks to go, and five hours on the plane to Reykjavik, I’ll have plenty of time to read!

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