City of Literature and The Literature Web

Introducing the city of literature in Frankfurt

At the introduction of Reykjavik City of Literature in Frankfurt Book-fair in 2011

Reykjavik was designated a UNESCO City of Literature in August of 2011 – the fifth city in the world to receive this honorary title. It was also the first non-English speaking city to become a City of Literature, which is a permanent title. UNESCO's Cities of Literature are a part of the larger UNESCO Creative Cities Network, of which Reykjavik was the 29th member. Since its induction, the constantly expanding Network has grown extensively.

Reykjavík’s official letter of nomination from UNESCO states that: “The City of Reykjavik boasts foremost an outstanding literary history with its invaluable heritage of ancient medieval literature, the Sagas, the Edda and the Íslendingabók, Libellus Islandorum (Book of Icelanders). This longstanding tradition has naturally cultivated the city’s strength in literature education, preservation, dissemination and promotion. For a city of small population, approximately 200,000 habitants, Reykjavik is especially appreciated for demonstrating the central role literature plays within the modern urban landscape, the contemporary society and the daily life of the citizens. With the support of the central government of Iceland, the city continues to pursue its development plans in support of languages, translation initiatives as well as international literary exchanges.”

Reykjavík City of Literature is managed as a part of the Department of Culture and Tourism and the venture's offices are to be found in Reykjavík City Hall. City of Literature hosts an annual reading festival in October as well as a book festival in November in cooperation with the Association of Icelandic Publishers. It also oversees various literary projects and markings around the city and is the curator of Gröndalshús; a museum/venue dedicated to Icelandic writer Benedikt Gröndal.

Reykjavík City of Literature's goal is enhancing literary life in all forms within the city; an endeavour that it undertakes in cooperation with local schools and libraries and other key partners in the field of literacy. The bearing that Reykjavík holds as a City of Literature is first and foremost down to communal efforts of the city's inhabitants and as such that honour belongs to them. However, City of Literature also stresses international cooperation, especially within the UNESCO Creative Cities Network, through which Reykjavík takes part in numerous international events and festivities relating to literature and literacy.

Fulltrúar Bókmenntaborga UNESCO

From the annual meeting of UNESCO Creative Cities in 2017

Vision

As a UNESCO City of Literature, Reykjavík emphasises the central role of literature in the cultural life of the city and the nation, both in terms of historical significance and contemporary value. Together with its partners, the City of Reykjavik will reinforce literary infrastructures within the city and make literature a visible and accessible aspect of the city's urban landscape, thus ensuring that literary life remains one of the founding pillars of creative activity in the city.

Freedom of expression is a core value of Reykjavík City of Literature. City of Literature is committed to the ideal that individuals and societies cannot thrive unless all citizens are able to express themselves freely and the venture's slogan is "The Word is Free" (Orðið er frjálst).

Our goals

  • Support and promote literary activities in Reykjavík and increase awareness of Icelandic literary heritage
  • Forge connections between local literary fields, peoples, groups, and institutions and encourage their cooperation
  • Promote Reykjavík internationally as a literary and cultural destination with the aid of the local tourism industry
  • Encourage international collaborations regarding Icelandic literature and take an active part in the UNESCO Creative Cities Network.

See also the UNESCO Creative Cities Mission Statement.

The literature web

The Icelandic Literature Web contains copious information regarding contemporary Icelandic authors and their work. It was launched in the year 2000 as a part of Reykjavík's position as one of that year's European Capitals of Culture and was funded by the European Union. Since then the Literature Web has grown extensively under the supervision of the Reykjavík City Library, which has charge of the web. There you can discover Icelandic writers from all fields and genres; be it fiction or non-fiction, poetry or prose, children's authors or playwrights. There is also literary criticism addressing the works of the authors, personal essays written by the authors for the Literature Web, book excerpts, biographical and bibliographical information and lists of translated works.

The Web's aim is to support Icelandic literature at home and abroad by providing accessible information on contemporary Icelandic literature to the public as well as to students and scholars of Icelandic literature. We hope it will be of good use to you and we welcome all comments. If you recently read a book by an Icelandic author and would like to share your thoughts and insights with other readers, please feel free to contact us directly.