Iceland is a country often overlooked and misunderstood, wrongly considered an isolated island from which few cultural exports reach our shores. Having flourished from ranking as one of the poorest countries in the world to one rich in cultural exports, Iceland will again reinvent itself and re-release many of its ancient literature alongside edgy works by young poets as Guest of Honor at this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair. The fair is considered an annual meeting place for industry experts from around the world to “come together and create something new.” And while most of the works have been around for centuries (seven, to be exact) the manner in which these works will be displayed and celebrated is entirely new.
Juxtaposed alongside alternative authors’, poets’, and students’ work, the canonical tales of Icelandic settlers originated in the 13th century as pioneering examples of realist narration. The sagas’ style, both uniquely austere and innately objective, flourished again in the 20th century when Halldor Laxness won the Nobel Peace Prize for his colorful return to the “great Icelandic narrative tradition.” Now, fifty years later, the revitalized canon will be the focus of October’s comprehensive literature program, which includes readings, lectures, and progressive literature projects realized in cooperation with the vast network of publishing houses, libraries, bookshops and other benefactors involved.
While the spotlight may be on the newly translated Icelandic-into-German sagas (published in autumn 2011 by S. Fischer Verlag), highlights also include 100 new literary publications, numerous contemporary and young authors, including Fictitious Island, and student showcases, whose award-winning photography won their art a place among their country’s classics. Rebecca Degott (“Velkomid Ísland,” Hochschule Darmstadt) and Sophia Preußner: (“Moosblau. Rostgrün. Eisrot.,” HfG Offenbach), the two first prize winners, will display their work in various locations in September in anticipation for the Book Fair. Further, the 10 best designs will be published as postcards, which will be displayed at various cultural institutions across the city.
The Frankfurt Book Fair runs from October 12th– 16th and is sure to garner the international attention Iceland’s rich literary history has deserved for centuries.