The 2013 Reykjavik International Literary Festival

The Reykjavik International Literary Festival – September 11 to September 15 2013

Audience Idno Theater @ Magnus Helgason

The Reykjavik International Literary Festival has established itself as a major literary event in the capital of Iceland and has developed considerably since its foundation in 1985. The role of the Reykjavik International Literary Festival is to introduce the major trends in world literature to Icelandic readers, bring together Icelandic and foreign authors, and their readers.

The festival, first held in 1985, started as a Nordic Poetry Festival. Just two years later it became an international literary festival, which has been attended over the years by some of the major figures of the literary world: Kurt Vonnegut, Haruki Murakami and Herta Müller, to name but three. Since then, a real feast of literature has delighted the capital every year during the second week of September and only once have three years gone by between two festivals. In September 2013, for the eleventh time, our book-loving citizens were once again  invited to sit down to this literary banquet. Photos from the festival can be found here.

The Reykjavik International Literary Festival is not an ordinary book festival: what distinguishes it is above all the very relaxed ambiance for both authors and readers. World-famous writers such as J.M. Coetzee and Paul Auster have spoken of the special atmosphere of the festival and how enjoyable it is to meet and talk to readers, sometimes several evenings in a row. Douglas Coupland has described the festival as one of the most remarkable literary festivals he has ever been to. Undoubtedly, the informal, relaxed atmosphere of the Reykjavik International Literary Festival is a major factor in its popularity amongst authors and readers.

The program for Reykjavik International Literary Festival is very diverse: evening readings, interviews, lectures and panel discussions with both international and Icelandic authors. Different exhibitions have accompanied the festival over the years and 2013 was no exception: this year’s exhibition of drawings depicted life in Greenland in past times.

The Reykjavik International Literary Festival took place from Wednesday 11th September to Sunday 15th. French-Congolese writer Alain Mabanckou gave the opening speech which can be found in English here: African Independence – Alain Mabanckou Seventeen foreign authors from sixteen different countries were invited to Iceland and ten Icelandic authors participated. Six international journalists came and 12 international agents and publishers took part.

The schedule was tight and the full program can be found here. For the first two days, 11th and 12th September, the festival coincided with the annual congress of PEN International, the international writers’ organization, with panels, readings and discussions. John Ralston Saul, president of PEN International, gave the opening speech that evening and the speech can be found here: John Ralston Saul Opening Speech_Reykjavik 2013, That evening the first PEN International New Voices Award was given for the first time. The recipient is South-African author Masande Ntshanga.

New Voices Award @ Magnus Helgason

In the evenings, authors read from their works. On Saturday 14th September, a publishing seminar was held, and interviews with authors and readings played an important role that day, ending with the Literary Ball, Bókaballið as it is called in Icelandic.

The Literary Ball was held for the first time in 2011 and was a huge success. Where else in Reykjavik can readers rock with their favorite writer to the sound of live music? The festival closed on Sunday 15th, with tightly-scheduled readings and interviews, similar to the rest of the week.

This year’s festival was a great success: readers were able to meet authors from all around the world. The Reykjavik International Literary Festival is a great place to meet up and discuss world literature – or anything for that matter, to reach more readers, and to make new friends. The initiators of the festival come from the Icelandic literary world, writers, publishers and critics.

The festival team welcomes visitors, taking special care to show them the best of what Reykjavik and the capital region have to offer, and we hope they leave us with a smile.

The Reykjavik International Literary Festival was held with the support of the Nordic House in Reykjavik, Ministry of Education, Science and Culture, Reykjavik UNESCO City of Literature, the Nordic Culture Fund and the Icelandic Publishers’ Association and others. A full list of sponsors and partners can be found here.

The festival took place at the Nordic House, Idno TheaterHarpa and other locations in central Reykjavík.

For any questions or comments, please contact Stella (stella (at)

Here you can find a list of previous guests at the Reykjavík International Literary Festival.