City of Literature and The Literature Web

The City of Reykjavik was designated as a UNESCO City of Literature in August 2011, the fifth city in the world and the first non-native English speaking city to receive the honorary title. The title is permanent. UNESCO Cities of Literature are part of the larger UNESCO Creative Cities Network, of which Reykjavik was the 29th member. Since then, the Network has grown and will continue to do so.

UNESCO’s official letter of nomination 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.”

As a UNESCO City of Literature, the City of Reykjavik aims to further enhance literary life in the city through cooperation with key partners in the field. Such enhancement is also the impetus behind the City of Literature's projects aimed at stimulating reading and cooperation within the educational system.
The City of Reykjavik sees the honorary title as above all an endowment for the whole community stresses good cooperation among all parties involved in literature.

Reykjavík UNESCO City of Literature is run as a cultural office within the Reykjavík City’s Department of Culture and Tourism. It is located at the Reykjavik City Hall.

VISION

As a UNESCO City of Literature, Reykjavík emphasises the central position of literature in the city’s and nation’s cultural life, its historical significance and contemporary value. Together with its literary partners, the City of Reykjavik will further reinforce this infrastructure so that literature and writing will continue being one of the pillars of creative activity.
Freedom of expression is a core value of Reykjavík UNESCO City of Literature and its Icelandic slogan, ”Orðið er frjálst“ (The Word is Free), reflects this emphasis.  Reykjavík City of Literature is committed to the ideal that neither individuals nor societies can thrive in a healthy way unless its citizens are free to express themselves, their desires and convictions.

OUR GOALS

  • Support and promote literary activities that take place in Reykjavík and provide information about our rich literary heritage.
  • Stimulate cooperation and encourage new connections in the fields of literature, reading and writing in Reykjavík.
  • Work with the tourist industry in promoting Reykjavík as a literary and cultural destination.
  • Enhance international collaboration as regards Icelandic literature and active participation in the UNESCO Creative Cities Network.

See also the UNESCO Creative Cities Mission Statement (pdf). 

The Literature web

The web Icelandic Literature, which is part of this website, is run by the Reykjavík City Library. It contains information about contemporary Icelandic authors and their work. It was launched in 2000 and has been steadily growing since then, now counting more than 100 fiction writers in all genres. Here you can find information about writers of poetry and prose; novel- and short story writers, authors of children's books and playwrights. You can read articles by Icelandic critics about each author, personal essays from the authors written for the web, biographical information and bibliography with lists of original and translated work, as well as excerpts from some published works.

The aim of this website is to make information about contemporary lcelandic literature accessible to the general public, students of Icelandic literature and scholars, and to support Icelandic literature at home and abroad. We hope it will be of good use to you and welcome all comments. 

If you have been reading a book by an Icelandic author and would like to share your thoughts with other readers, please feel free to contact us.

Visit the Literature Web

Editor in Chief is Björn Unnar Valsson.