Icelandic Authors 2015

Andri Snær Magnason, playwright, novelist and children's author

Andri Snær Magnason

Andri Snær Magnason

Andri Snær Magnason, born in 1973, is a playwright, novelist and children’s author. He completed a degree in Icelandic language from the University of Iceland in 1997. His children’s book The Story of the Blue Planet (1999) was a huge success, and became the first children’s book to receive the Icelandic Literary Prize in the fiction category. It has been translated into several languages, and a play based on the story has been staged in theatres across the world. This book also received several international awards, including the Janusz Korczak Honorary Prize (2002), the Green Earth Honorary Prize (2013) and the UKLA book prize in England (2014). blai-island-175x214

4451-4001-175x223Andri Snær is also a playwright, and his first novel, LoveStar (2002), received the DV cultural prize and was nominated for the Philip K. Dick award in 2013. In 2006, he published The Dreamland, which received great reviews and won the Icelandic Literary Prize. Andri Snær is an environmental activist, and The Dreamland explores environmental issues such as aluminium plants and heavy industry. A documentary film based on The Dreamland was made in 2009, which Andri Snær directed with Þorfinnur Guðnason.

His latest book, Tímakistan (2013) received the Icelandic Literary Prize and the West-Nordic children’s book prize.

Panel: The Environment, the Future and the Future of Writing

Bergsveinn Birgisson, poet, novelist and medieval Nordic expert

Bergsveinn Birgisson

Bergsveinn Birgisson

Bergsveinn Birgisson was born in 1971. His poetry collections include The Icelander (1992) and The Invasion of the Souls (1997). Bergsveinn’s first novel, Landscape is Never Silly, was published in 2003 and was nominated for the Icelandic Literary Prize. In 2009, Bergsveinn published a research-based novel called A Manual on the Mentality of Cows.

Bergsveinn’s bestselling novel A Reply to Helga’s Letter was published in 2010 to strong critical reviews. It was nominated for the Icelandic Literary Prize and the Nordic Council’s Literature Prize, and was selected as Booksellers’ Best Novel of the Year. It was published in Germany in 2011, translated by Angela Schamberger. Svar við bréfi Helgu

A play based on A Reply to Helga’s Letter was staged in Reykjavík’s Borgarleikhúsið theatre, directed by Kristín Eysteinsdóttir, and received strong reviews.

Bergsveinn lives in Norway where he teaches medieval Nordic literature at a University. His PhD examined court poetry and its dissemination.

Though Bergsveinn is living in Norway, his writing has always focused on Iceland.

Panel: The Role of the Past in Modern Writing

Emil Hjörvar Petersen, poet and fantasy writer

Ljósmyndari: Erlendur Jónsson

Emil Hjörvar Petersen (photo by Erlendur Jónsson)

Emil Hjörvar Petersen, born in 1984, is an Icelandic author of poetry and speculative fiction. He received the New Voices Grant of the Icelandic Literature Center in 2008 for his second poetry collection, Fox. Two years later, A Saga of Survivors: Hödur & Baldur, the first novel in a trilogy, was published, one of the first Icelandic offerings in the fantasy and science fiction genres. This trilogy tells the tale of the Norse gods that survived Ragnarök, and their adventures, voyages and struggles. Refur_kápumynd-1-175x271

The second installment in the trilogy, Verge of Ruins, was published in 2012, and the third, Nidhoggur, in 2014. The trilogy has received very positive reviews, and is now part of the syllabus in Icelandic high schools and colleges.

saga-eftirlifenda-níðhöggur-175x251Emil has participated in several international writer conferences and conventions, including the International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts in Florida, USA, SweCon in Sweden and Archipelacon in Finland, at which he was interviewed by Gregory Pellechi (in English) about the difficulties of the Icelandic language for writing science fiction.

His third poetry collection, Edible Cake Decorations, was published in 2014 by Meðgönguljóð, and in the same year, Fox was published in Ukrainian by Krok Publishers at the 21st Lviv International Publisher’s Forum.

Emil holds an MA in Literature and Cultural Studies, an MA in Publishing and Editing and a BA in Comparative Literature.

He gives regular talks on creative writing and fantasy/science fiction, both publicly and academically. In 2014 he worked with the Reykjavik UNESCO City of Literature on the project ‘Fantasies in Reykjavik’, where he ran a series of presentations and supervised workshops.

Emil lives in Lund, Sweden, where he is currently working on short stories, a new poetry collection, an interactive story-game funded by the Educational Materials Development Fund, and, of course, a new novel.

“A new and fresh view on the Norse gods … thrilling from the first page … a knock-out Icelandic fantasy.” —Morgunbladid Daily (a major Icelandic newspaper, on the trilogy).

Panel: Icelandic Literature as an Inspiration

Halldóra Kristín Thoroddsen, poet and writer

Halldora Kristín

Halldóra Kristín Thoroddsen

Halldóra Kristín Thoroddsen was born in 1950. So far she has published three books of poetry and two collections of short stories. Her first poetry volume, Stofuljóð (Living Room Poems) came out in 1990. She then published the poetry book Hárfínar athugasemdir (Clear-cut Observations) in 1998. In 2002 her book of microstories, 90 sýni úr minni mínu (90 Scenes from My Memory) was published. She introduced readers to this book with the following words:

03444"Our course of life mostly happens in our consciousness, it changes from day to day, and we are constantly struggling to keep pace with it, always looking out for anything that might be of help. But here I am not going to talk about this inner life, and I'll rather concentrate on everyday events that I have lived through myself."

The book 90 Scenes from My Memory raised much attention and pleased readers all over Iceland.

3989-4001-175x266Halldóra's newest book of poetry is Gangandi vegfarandi (The Stroller) (2005). She says of the collection:

"This book is about us, from the point of view of the stroller who is on the way just like we are, concerned by his own business, so this is going to be a little bit twisted. He is standing right in the middle of the question mark…"

Halldóra's short story Tvöfalt gler (Double Glass) was published in the third issue of the literary magazine 1005 in 2015. It is about a woman who looks at the world through double glass.

Panel: Telling Big Stories with Few Words

Jón Gnarr, writer, actor, comedian and former Mayor of Reykjavík


Jón Gnarr

Jón Gnarr, born in 1967, has had an awe-inspiring career. A writer, actor and comedian, he served as the mayor of Reykjavík from 2010-2014 after a satirical campaign turned serious.

Jón created the well-known radio show Tvíhöfði, with actor Sigurjón Kjartansson, which has recently returned to air as a weekly podcast from Kjarninn.

He was part of Foster Brothers (Fóstbræður), the most popular comedy group in Iceland, which had its own TV show from 1997-2000. He starred in the TV series Nightshift (Næturvaktin) in 2007, Dayshift (Dagvaktin) in 2008 and Prisonshift (Fangavaktin) in 2009, in the leading role as the grumpy, antisocial boss Georg Bjarnfreðarson. For this role he received the Edda Award in 2010, a prize that he has won nearly twenty times in his career.

Indjaninn-175x288Jón’s novel Midnight Sun City (Miðnætursólborgin) was published in 1989, and The Pleb Book (Plebbabókin) was published in 2002. In 2006 he released a fictional autobiography, The Indian (Indjáninn). Based on his childhood memories, this book was very well received and has now been published in the USA by Deep Vellum Publishing. Its sequel, The Pirate (Sjóræninginn), came out in 2012. These books have both been translated into German as well as English, and the third book in the series, Outcast (Útlaginn), will be published later this year.

{76B75FD8-48C3-4503-9D1C-D0F85F4060A4}Img100Jón’s book How I Became the Mayor of a Large City in Iceland and Changed the World was published by American publisher Melville House in 2014, and became popular worldwide.

My birth itself: Another blow for the family. I’m obviously not retarded. A relief. But after the birth, another scary fact reveals itself: I’m a redhead. It couldn’t have been more of a shock if I’d been born black.” -- Jón Gnarr, The Indian.

Panel: True and False Stories

Kristín Ómarsdóttir, writer, playwright and artist


Kristín Ómarsdóttir

Kristín Ómarsdóttir is a writer, playwright and artist. She was born in 1962, and studies Icelandic language, literature and Spanish at the University of Iceland. Kristín’s first book, Draumar á hvolfi, was published in 1987 and she has since published almost thirty books.

Her novel Elskan mín ég dey (1999) was nominated for the Icelandic Literary Prize and the Nordic Council’s Literature Prize. This book is an unconventional story of a family, set in an Icelandic seaside village. Its lyrical narrative is simultaneously humorous and personal. 002-175x278

Kristín received the Women’s Literature Award for her book of poetry Sjáðu fegurð þína in 2008. She is also an award-winning playwright. Her books have been translated into Swedish, French and Finnish and her poetry has been published in several foreign magazines. Her newest novel, Flækingurinn, was published earlier this year to great reviews.

Kristín is also an artist who works with drawing, sculpture and media art.

Panel: Vilborg Dagbjartsdóttir in Conversation with Kristín Ómarsdóttir

Lilja Sigurðardóttir, writer and playwright

Lilja Sigurðardóttir

Lilja Sigurðardóttir

Born in 1972, Lilja Sigurðardóttir published her first book, the crime novel Steps, in 2009. It received excellent reviews, and was picked up by the large German publishing house Rowohlt. Lilja’s second novel, Forgiveness, came out in 2010.

Her first play, The Big Babies, was staged at the Tjarnabíó theatre in Reykjavík in the winter of 2013-2014 by the Lab Loka theatre group. Directed by Rúnar Guðbrandsson, The Big Babies received the Grímuverðlaunin award for playwright of the year.

Readers are eagerly awaiting Lilja’s next book, Trapped, which will be published in October 2015 by Forlagið. French publishing house Métailié, which has published works from two other Icelandic authors, has already bought the rights to this book. Trapped will be the first in an exciting trilogy. Fyrirgefning

Steps is Lilja Sigurðardóttir’s first novel, and to cut a long story short, she has made a good start… The story has a great flow and the author manages to create excitement: and that’s the main requirement for a crime novel… an exciting story that works. --Kolbeinn Óttarsson Proppé, Fréttablaðið Newspaper.

Panel: Crime Stories on Friday Night

Nanna Rögnvaldardóttir, recipe extraordinaire


Nanna Rögnvaldardóttir

Nanna Rögnvaldardóttir, born in 1957, is a translator and a prolific author and collector of recipe books.

Her interests lie with food, the history of food and recipes. She has collected recipe books from a young age and has over 1700 in her collection from across the world. She has also authored her own recipe books, which include Matarást (1998) and Matreiðslubók Nönnu (2001). Matarást was nominated for the Icelandic Literary Prize.

Nanna’s cookbook Maturinn hennar Nönnu (2009) was nominated for the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards for the most original cookbook and the best-illustrated cookbook. She has also written books in English about Icelandic cookery, including Icelandic Food and Cookery (2002) and Does Anyone Actually Eat This? (2014). 887164_10152451112679810_6584085899340440370_o-1

doesNanna has written articles about food and cooking for several newspapers and magazines, and has spoken at conferences about her books.

This year, Nanna published two recipe books, Ömmumatur Nönnu and Sætmeti án sykurs og sætiefna.

Panel: Food in Literature, Literature on Food

Oddný Eir Ævarsdóttir, writer, editor and curator


Oddný Eir Ævarsdóttir

Oddný Eir Ævarsdóttir was born in Reykjavík in 1972. She completed an MA in political philosophy at the University of Iceland in 2000, and completed her PhD at the Sorbonne, researching the political importance of the archive.

Oddný Eir has worked as a researcher, editor, teacher, writer and curator, with extensive involvement with museums and galleries. She has worked closely with her mother, Guðrún Kristjánsdóttir, who is an artist, and runs a small publishing company called Apaflasa with her mother and brother, Uggi Ævarsson. Oddný Eir has also worked with Björk, on nature preservation projects and the Biophilia project. Jarðnæði_Framhlid-175x269

Her book of poetry, Snjór piss hár, was published by Apaflasa in 2000. This same year, she wrote a movie script with Krisín Ómarsdóttir about the Icelandic artist Muggur.

Blátt-blóð-175x291In 2004 her first novel, Splitting the Hump, was published, an experimental blending of autobiography and fiction. Her next two novels, Home to my Heart (2009) and Plan of Ruins (2011) were also written in this form. These books received strong reviews and Plan of Ruins received the Women’s Literature Award and Europe’s Literature Prize in 2014. Plan of Ruins will be translated into English in 2016.

Oddný Eir continued her experimental autobiography form with Ástarmeistarinn: blindskák (2014), and her 2015 autobiography Blátt blóð: í leit að kátu sæði details her experience with infertility and the desire to have a baby. Her latest book, Fæðingarborgin, was published in May 2015. Written in collaboration with her father Ævar Kjartansson, this book includes letters between sons and mothers, fathers and daughters.

Panel: True and False Stories

Ófeigur Sigurðsson, avant-garde poet and novelist

ÓS portrait

Ófeigur Sigurðsson

Ófeigur Sigurðsson, born in 1975, is a writer and a poet. He is part of an avant-garde of young Icelandic poets who have recreated the medium. Ófeigur has a degree in philosophy from the University of Iceland, and has worked on the radio.

Jon-175x271A prolific poet, Ófeigur has published several collections including Toast to the Midwinter (2001) and Redness (2006). In 2005 his first novel, Áferð, was published and received very positive reviews. His second novel, Jón (2010), is the story of a man writing letters to his pregnant wife from a cave. It was the first Icelandic novel to receive the European Union Prize for Literature. Ófeigur’s latest book, Öræfi, came out in 2014, and received the Icelandic Literary Prize. It was also chosen as the best book among booksellers in 2014.

Panel: The Role of the Past in Modern Writing

Óskar Árni Óskarsson, poet, writer and translator

Ljósmynd: Kristinn Ingvarsson

Óskar Árni Óskarsson (photo by Kristinn Ingvarsson)

Óskar Árni Óskarsson was born in 1950. His first book of poetry, A Towel on the Windowsill, was published in 1986 and he has since written many more collections.

Óskar Árni was editor and the publisher of the Icelandic literary magazine Ský from 1990-1994. He has also translated a number of foreign works, including three books of Japanese Haiku. In 2010 he was nominated for the Icelandic Translators Prize for his translation of Carson McCullers’ The Ballad of the Sad Café. He also translated Raymond Carver’s What we Talk About When we Talk About Love and Elephant. Skuggamyndir-úr-ferðalagi-kilja

kudungasafnid-200Óskar Árni is one of the most interesting modern Icelandic authors of short prose. His two ultra-short stories, Lakkrísgerðin (2001) and Truflanir í vetrarbrautinni (2004) were published by Bjartur. In 2008, his poetry collection Skuggamyndir úr ferðalagi, based on autobiographical memories, was published to great reviews and was nominated for the Icelandic Literary Prize. It was also published in Germany.

Óskar Árni’s latest works are two books of poetry, Þrár hendur (2010) and Kuðungasafnið (2012).

Panel: Magic in the Everyday Life

Steinunn Sigurðardóttir, novelist and a poet

© David Ignaszewski-koboy

Steinunn Sigurðardóttir (photo by David Ignaszewski Koboy)

Steinunn Sigurðardóttir is one of Iceland's most highly acclaimed novelists and poets. She began her writing career at age 19, with a book of poetry. Her output to date includes eleven novels, seven volumes of poetry, a book about Vigdís Finnbogadóttir (former president of Iceland), a children’s book, a stage play, TV-plays and radio plays. She is also a translator of poetry and prose.

Steinunn has contributed greatly to the international recognition of contemporary Icelandic literature, and is one of the most frequently translated living Icelandic writers. Her latest novel, Women of Quality (Gæðakonur), features a larger-than-life female hero who works as a volcanologist.  Her other novels include 0091-175x268 Jojo, Sunshine Horse, The Love of the Fish and Place of the Heart, which won The Icelandic Literary Prize. Steinunn’s first novel, The Thief of Time, was made into a French feature film, Voleur de Vie, directed by Yves Angelo and starring Emmanuelle Béart and Sandrine Bonnaire.

Steinunn's novels vary greatly in form and content, but the central theme is almost always love in its various aspects. Her writing style is clear, literary and sometimes colloquial, and has been described as 'intoxicating'.

Her book about President Vigdís Finnbogadóttir was an all-time bestseller in Iceland. The Thief of Time was repeatedly reprinted in Sweden and France, where it sold tens of thousands of copies.

Panel: Official Opening and Keynote Address & Stories that Travel and Transform

Þórdís Gísladóttir, writer, translator and poet

thordis gisladottir

Þórdís Gísladóttir

Þórdís Gísladóttir was born in 1965. She has a degree in Icelandic language from the University of Iceland and a licentiate degree in Nordic studies from Uppsala University in Sweden. Þórdís is a writer, translator and poet and has written for both children and adults. She has also taught in universities, and has written about literature for the Norwegian newspaper Klassekampen.

Þórdís received the Tómas Guðmundsson literary prize for her book The Secret of Others in 2010. Her second book of poetry, Velúr, came out in 2014, and was nominated for the Icelandic Literary prize. Leyndarmál-annarra-175x271

Þórdís is a prolific translator, mostly translating from Swedish. She translated the novel Everything is Love by Kristian Lundberg in 2012, for which she was nominated for the Icelandic Translators Prize. Þórdís also translated the novel Wilful Disregard by Swedish writer Lena Andersson, who is also attending this year’s festival.

In 2012, Þórdís’s children’s book Randalín and Mundi was published. This book received the Fjöru award and the Icelandic Booksellers award. The second book in this series, Randalín and Mundi in a Secret Grove was published in 2013, bringing great joy to Icelandic children.

Randalín-og-Mundi-175x268This fall, Þórdís’s third book of poetry is coming out, along with the third book in the Randalín and Mundi series

Here is a quote from the cultural radio show Víðsjá from November 2010, where The Secret of Others (Leyndarmál annarra) was featured:

… Like the title of the book suggests, its aim is to look under the surface in the lives of strangers, using the imagination. Þórdís does this perfectly… She’s a humourist and a humanist at the same time, a registrar of something real, not just something fictional but everything that’s around us. It’s great to laugh with Þórdís in this book and maybe we’ll enjoy it again if she writes more books. --Review of The Secret of Others on cultural radio show Víðsjá, November 2010.

Panel: Magic in the Everyday Life

Þórunn Erlu – og Valdimarsdóttir, writer, poet and historian

Þórunn Erla Valdimarsdóttir

Þórunn Erlu- og Valdimarsdóttir

Þórunn Erlu- og Valdimarsdóttir was born in 1954, and is educated as a historian. She is a prolific author of over twenty books, which include poetry, novels, biographies and historical works. Þórunn has also written for radio and television.

Her first novel, Júlía, was published by Forlagið in 1992. In collaboration with poet and musician Megas, Þórunn wrote the children’s biography Sun in Norðurmýri in 1993 and the novel The Day of Women (Dagur kvennanna) in 2010.

5230-4001-175x258In 1997, Þórunn’s historical novel Enough was published and nominated for the DV Cultural Prize. Her next novel, A Girl with Fingers (1999), received the DV Cultural Prize and was nominated for the Nordic Council’s Literature Prize. Stulkamedmaga_kilja-175x278

Þórunn’s novels The Blood of the Other is Cold (2007) and The Lion has Many Ears (2010) are contemporary crime novels based on the Icelandic Sagas. The Blood of the Other is Cold is based on Njála and The Lion has Many Ears is based on Laxdæla. Both novels were nominated for the Icelandic Literary Prize. Þórunn’s academic books have also been nominated for the Icelandic Literary Prize. In 2013 her novel A Girl with Stomach won the Fjöru Prize.

Þórunn is also an artist, and her beautiful line drawings can be seen on her website. She is working on a new children’s book.

Panel: Women, Love and the Narrative in Literature

Vilborg Dagbjartsdóttir, poet and children's author

Vilborg_Dagbjartsdottir svhv

Vilborg Dagbjartsdóttir

Vilborg Dagbjartsdóttir was born in 1930, and is a poet and children’s author. She studied drama and completed a degree in teaching and librarianship at the University of Iceland. Vilborg has worked as a primary-school teacher, and has published several children’s books, both fiction and academic.

Her first book of poetry, Laufið á trjánum, was published in 1960. At this time she was one of very few women in Iceland to write modernist poetry. Her poems appeared in the literary magazine Birtingur and she has published numerous poems in magazines and collections abroad. Her ninth poetry collection, Síðdegi, was nominated for the Women’s Literature Prize in 2010. Siddegi-175x286

Vilborg’s children’s book Alli Nalli og tunglið (1959) is a widely known classic among Icelandic children. Several plays have been staged based on Vilborg’s children’s stories.

Vilborg is a feminist activist, and was one of the founders of The Redstockings of the Women’s Liberation Movement, a radical feminist group formed in 1969.

In 2000 Vilborg received The Order of the Falcon, which is a national Order of Iceland. Two biographies about Vilborg have been published, Mynd af konu (2000) and Úr þagnarhyl (2012).

Panel: Vilborg Dagbjartsdóttir in Conversation with Kristín Ómarsdóttir

Vilborg Davíðsdóttir, writer and ethnologist


Vilborg Davíðsdóttir


Vilborg Davíðsdóttir (b. 1965) is an ethnologist and a journalist by education. Her first book, Við Urðarbrunn (By Urd’s Well) came out in 1993, and its sequel, Nornadómur (Norns’Judgement) was published the following year. These tell the story of a young slave woman in 9th century Iceland, the daughter of a Norwegian chieftain settler and his Irish slave, and her pursuit for freedom. The story is set in Iceland, Scandinavia and the Scottish Isles. Both were critically acclaimed and later republished in a single volume titled Korku saga (Korkas Saga).1839-4001-175x284

Vilborg’s third book, Eldfórnin (Sacrifice by Fire, 1997) is a historical novel revolving around events at the nunnery of Kirkjubær in the 14th century. Her fourth novel, Galdur (2000) (published in English as On the Cold Coasts by AmazonCrossing in 2012) is also based on historical events, this time in the 15th century, in the North of Iceland, when Englishmen dominated where highly influental in Iceland.

Sources describing the lives of the Inuit and the Norse inhabiting Greenland in the mid-15th century provide the background for Vilborg’s fifth novel, Hrafninn (The Raven, 2005). The story touches on the mysterious disappearance of the settlements started in Greenland by Icelandic settlers around the year 1000. Hrafninn was nominated for the Icelandic Literature Prize.

Audur-175x261Auður (2009) and its sequel Vígroði (Crimson Skies 2012) tell the story of the early years of the only woman to lead her own settlement expedition to Iceland in the Viking Age, Audur the Deep-Minded. The book received rave reviews and was also nominated for the Icelandic Literary Prize. The books are set in the British Isles.

Vilborg’s latest book, Ástin, drekinn og dauðinn (On Love, Dragons and Dying) is a memoir, published in 2015. Astindrekinogdaudin-175x204Here she tells the story of her husband’s journey with terminal brain cancer, “the Dragonˮ, and her first year as a widow following his death in 2013. The book has been highly acclaimed, especially for dealing with the death of a loved one and grief in a moving yet realistic way, as well as encouraging the reader to live mindfully, whatever happens, and accept death as a natural part of life.










Panel: Icelandic Literature as an Inspiration

Yrsa Sigurðardóttir, crime novelist and civil engineer

Yrsa Sigurðardóttir

Yrsa Sigurðardóttir

Yrsa Sigurðardóttir was born in 1963. She has a Masters degree in Civil Engineering from Concordia University in Montreal, and works as a civil engineer as well as a writer.DNA-175x254

Yrsa began her writing career with children’s books, but has recently turned to crime novels, a genre in which she has had great success. Her first crime novel, Last Rituals (2005) has been translated into several languages, and Yrsa has since written several sequels, which all feature the investigative lawyer Þóra Guðmundsdóttir. These include Ashes to Dust (2007), Someone to Watch Over Me (2009) and The Silence of the Sea (2011), which was chosen as best crime novel in England in 2014. Yrsa also received a prize at Crime Fest in Bristol earlier this year. Brakið-frontur-175x258

Yrsa’s books have been published in many different countries. Her latest crime novel, DNA (2014) was nominated on behalf of Iceland for the Glass Key Award, an award given annually to a crime novel by a Nordic author.

Panel: Crime Stories on Friday Night