Music & Art Jan 03, 2019

Learn About the Translators of Icelandic Literature!

Find out why translators of Icelandic literature are vital to the nation’s authors.

The Icelandic language, unlike more mainstream European languages, is largely only spoken and written in Iceland. Authors that write in Icelandic rely heavily on translators who translate their works into foreign languages. During Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir’s Nordic Council Literature Prize acceptance speech, she said: “We write in the language of a few and place our trust in translators. I therefore dedicate this award to them.”

Auður Ava highlighted both the importance of Icelandic translators, as well as all other translators who help authors from small linguistic areas like Iceland. Without these translators, the expansion of Icelandic and other small languages to other parts of the world would not be nearly as vast and authors would not be able to reach the wide audience that they do now.

Interest in Icelandic literature abroad grew by record numbers last year, with 100 works being translated into 30 different languages. This growth is, in part, traced back to the growing interest in Icelandic culture and the booming tourism the nation has seen, but it is more directly due to the increasing promotion of Icelandic literature abroad over the past several years.

To achieve this international success, authors need help from their country. That is where the Icelandic Literature Center comes in. The role of the Icelandic Literature Center is “to raise awareness of Icelandic literature, both in Iceland and abroad, and to promote its distribution,” however, the center cannot do it all by itself. The international growth of Icelandic literature is also thanks to publishers and authors, who consistently work to translate their works, appear in various literary events and even meet with their readers.

In order to show appreciation for the important work these translators are doing, the Icelandic Literature Center hosted an international translators’ seminar in Reykjavik last year. Due to the success of the seminar, plans for a 2019 edition are already underway.

Have you read any Icelandic literature before? What was your favorite? Let us know in the comments below or on Twitter!