International Authors 2015

Ana María Shua, Queen of the Microstory

Ana María Shua (born 1951) is among the best-­known Argentinian writers, and has published more than 80 literary works in various genres. She is most distinguished by her 'microstories' - very short stories in prose that offer only a glimpse into the characters' lives. Her work in this genre has earned her the title 'Queen of the Microstory', and she has received many awards. Her microstory collections include Casa de Geishas (1992), Quick Fix (2008) and Fenómenos de Circo (2011).

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Ana María Shua

In fall 2015, a hundred of Shua's microstories will be published in Icelandic with translations by Kristín Guðrún Jónsdóttir. Many of her stories have already appeared in the Icelandic literary magazine Stína. Her writing has been translated into English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Dutch and Swedish.

Microstories evoke strong feelings and thoughts in the reader through sharp glimpses into other worlds. The genre is well known in Iceland - last Christmas the Icelandic writer Gyrðir Elíasson published a collection of very short fiction called "Lungnafiskarnir", which contained exactly one hundred microstories.

Panel: Telling Big Stories with Few Words & Ana María Shua: Microfiction in Latin America


Dave Eggers, powerhouse of literary innovation

Dave Eggers is a major American writer, editor, publisher and social activist. He burst onto the literary scene in 2000 with his memoir A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, which tells the story of the twenty-something Eggers raising his eight-year-old brother after the death of their parents.

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Dave Eggers (photo by Michelle Quint)

He has since published seven novels, including The Circle (2013), and a number of nonfiction works, gaining wide critical acclaim for his innovative and stylistic talent. Eggers founded the hugely successful publishing house McSweeney’s, and the nonprofit organization 826 Valencia, which nurtures literacy and writing skills among underprivileged children.

From the high­-tech palaces of contemporary Saudi Arabia in A Hologram for the King (2012) to the cubicles of a fictional Internet company in The Circle (2013), Eggers never fails to find surprising and intriguing insights into contemporary society and its anxieties.

In his latest novel, Your Fathers, Where Are They? And the Prophets, Do They Live Forever? (2014), he recounts the story of a troubled man in his thirties haunted by the death of his friend in a police shooting. In order to find answers to the questions tormenting him, he kidnaps seven people and holds them hostage at a deserted military base.

Time magazine wrote that “many writers, having written a first best­seller, might see it as a nice way to start a career. [Eggers] started a movement instead.” We are thrilled to welcome him in Reykjavík in September, and we can't wait to hear about the next incredible adventure in store for his readers.

Panel: Evening with Dave Eggers


David Mitchell, a great fan of Iceland

David Mitchell (1969) is a bestselling British author, one of the most popular contemporary writers in Great Britain. He is best known for his novel Cloud Atlas (2004), which was made into a film in 2012. Mitchell's latest novel, The Bone Clocks (2014), was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize.

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David Mitchell

Mitchell is a great fan of Iceland. Parts of The Bone Clocks take place here, with one of the protagonists being invited to take part in this very festival (though not sooner than 2018). In a recent interview with Morgunblaðið, he expressed great admiration for Halldór Laxness and his novel Independent People, naming it one of the most powerful books he has ever read.

Mitchell was named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time Magazine in 2007. His new novel, Slade House, will be published in October by Random House.

Panel: Icelandic Literature as an Inspiration


David Nicholls, beloved author on paper and screen

David Nicholls (1966) is an English novelist and screenwriter, author of wildly successful novels and scripts for the stage, television and movies. He has a broad education in acting and drama studies, and was an actor in his twenties before he moved to writing. He has created a number of adaptations of classic literary works for BBC TV, including Much Ado About Nothing and Great Expectations.

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David Nicholls (photo by Hal Shinnie)

Nicholls has written four novels, including Starter for Ten (2003), which was made into a film starring James McAvoy in 2006. The immensely successful One Day (2009) was also adapted for a film, starring Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess.

His latest novel, Us, was published last year to strong critical acclaim. It was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize and was declared 'a perfect book' by The Independent. It tells the story of a middle-­aged man, Douglas Petersen, whose wife announces that she will leave him after their son arrives at college. Terrified of this prospect, Douglas plans a family holiday in an attempt to bring his family together and prevent his marriage from falling apart.

Both Us and One Day have been translated into Icelandic.

Panel: Stories that Travel and Transform


Helle Helle, chronicler of invisible women

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Helle Helle (photo by Sacha Maric)

Helle Helle is one of Denmark's most important contemporary writers, whose work has been translated into fifteen languages. She was born in 1965 and grew up on the Danish island of Lolland. Her work has received a number of awards, including a lifetime grant from the Danish Arts Foundation in 2010.

Helle's writing often depicts characters on the outskirts of Danish society, both in a geographical and a social sense. She has a keen eye for small details and the importance of minute gestures, and her protagonists are often women. While her stories can sometimes be read as chronicles of the middle class, these narratives are often just a backdrop from which to examine larger questions of human existence, meaning and pointlessness, the small events of everyday life and the existential struggles of all people.

She is the author of two collections of short stories and six novels. Her latest novel, If You Want (2014), was nominated for the Nordic Council Literature Prize. Her novel This Should be Written in the Present Tense (2011) was published in English in 2014.

Panel: Magic in the Everyday Life


Katja Kettu, writer of strange beauties

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Katja Kettu

Katja Kettu is one of the most exciting new voices in Finnish literature. Born in 1978, she is also the singer in the punk band Confusa and an animated-film director. Her film Mankeli (2011) received the Grand Prize at the animation film festival in Fredrikstad.

She is the author of three novels and a collection of short stories. Her latest novel, The Midwife (2011), was the most­ read book in Finland in the year it was published, and received many awards. It was published in French by Actes Sud, and will be published in Icelandic by Forlagið this September.

The Midwife takes the reader on an extraordinary journey into World War II and the Lapland War in the northernmost provinces of Finland, where alliances are fragile and today's friend can easily become tomorrow's enemy. It is here that a midwife with peculiar talents falls in love with an SS officer, and follows him to the camp of Titovka, unsuspecting of the strange mission she must fulfill in the name of the Führer...

Kettu's writing presents a surprising juxtaposition of the beautiful and the horrible, the sublime and the sordid, the poetic and the perilous, enchanting and captivating many readers both in her home country and abroad.

Panel: The Role of the Past in Modern Writing


Kim Stanley Robinson, explorer of the Solar System

Kim Stanley Robinson is an American science fiction writer, whose work has been hailed "the gold-standard of realistic, and highly literary, science-fiction writing" (The Atlantic). He is best known for his Mars trilogy, which imagines the colonization and terraformation of Mars in the face of overpopulation and ecological disaster on Earth. The books, Red Mars (1993), Green Mars (1994) and Blue Mars (1996), were followed by a collection of short stories titled The Martians (1999). Robinson's books have won a number of science fiction awards, including the Hugo Award (1994, 1997) and the Nebula Award (1993, 2012).

Kim Stanley Robinson

Robinson explores questions that are pertinent in contemporary society and politics, such as climate change, ecological disaster, natural preservation and sustainability, alternatives to capitalism, the growing influence of transnational corporations, genetic engineering and the responsibilities of scientists. In 2008 he was named a "Hero of the Environment" by Time magazine.

Robinson's book 2312, published in 2012, is set 300 years into the future, when humanity has colonized the entire Solar System. It begins in a city on Mercury, which is later destroyed by an artificial asteroid. In his latest novel, Aurora (2015), Robinson explores humanity's first voyage beyond the Solar System.

Panel: The Environment, the Future and the Future of Writing & The Hard Problem


Lena Andersson, a witty analyst of passion

Photo by Ulla Montan

Lena Andersson (photo by Ulla Montan)

Lena Andersson is a Swedish author and a columnist for Dagens Nyheter, Sweden's largest morning paper. She has published ten books, including Wilful Disregard (2013), which won the August Prize and the Svenska Dagbladet Literature Prize. This book was translated into Icelandic in 2014, and into English earlier this year.

Wilful Disregard tells the story of Ester Nilsson, a 'sensible' woman in a 'sensible' long-term relationship, whose life is transformed when she is asked to give a lecture on the renowned artist Hugo Rask. Rask, who happens to be sitting in the audience, is spellbound by Nilsson's talk, and they meet afterwards and develop an intrinsic bond. The chain of events that unravels will change Nilsson's life forever. í leyfisleysi A

The book, which is full of wit and dark humor, explores the lengths we will go to for love, and sparked an animated debate about the figure of the male artist and his power and position in society. These discussions are still going on in Sweden, almost two years after the book was released.

Panel: True and False Stories


Pierre Lemaître, award-winning crime novelist

Pierre Lemaître is a widely acclaimed French author and hugely popular thriller writer. In 2013 he received the most prestigious French literary prize, the Goncourt, for his novel Au Revoir Là­haut, and the International Dagger award from the British Crime Writers' Association for his thriller Alex.

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Pierre Lemaître (photo by Thierry Rajic / Figure)

Alex was recently translated into Icelandic, and has been a bestseller in Iceland since its release. This story, not for the weak of heart, leaves the reader questioning their moral sense.

Lemaître's translator, Friðrik Rafnsson, discussed Lemaître's writing and the translation process in an interview for DV:

"Translating Alex was a lot of fun but also a big challenge, since Lemaître is a very well-read writer who pays homage to various authors in his book, like Proust or Pasternak, or the master director Alfred Hitchcock. I think Alex is a brilliantly ­written thriller which tries the reader's sense of justice. It is not at all a book for sensitive souls. Pierre Lemaître is a very knowledgeable author who knows exactly what he's doing. It's then the translator's task to take into account all of the above and deliver the story in Icelandic. I hope I succeeded in doing so."

Panel: Crime Stories on Friday Night


Stine Pilgaard, a delightful new voice from Denmark

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Stine Pilgaard (photo by Rasmus Jepsen)

Stine Pilgaard, born in 1984, is a graduate of the Danish Writer’s School and holds a degree from the University of Copenhagen, where she wrote her MA thesis on the role of women in Icelandic sagas. Her first novel, According to my Mum (2012), which is now in its 8th print-run, was shortlisted for the DR Romanprisen and won her the Bodil and Jørgen Munch Christensens Cultural Award for first novels. It was translated into Icelandic in 2014.

The protagonist of Stine's first novel is a young woman who moves back to her father's home after a breakup. She has also hit a dead end with her studies, and struggles with her meddling mother. The vivid and witty dialogues of the book make it a hilarious and enchanting read, giving a sharp analysis into the pain of relationship breakdowns.

Mamma_segir-175x276Her newest book, Songs for Festive Occasions (2015), is a web of stories about a group of people in a housing cooperative, who share communal work weekends, garden parties and internet provider issues. The narrator is a writer of horoscopes and songs for festive occasions, and her neighbours throng her living room as anniversaries of various sorts approach. The eclectic cast of characters includes Granny and Ruth, who met among cows and churches; Thomas, who is married to an absent-minded scholar of Old Norse; and Elizabeth, who wants a song written for her husband's birthday despite the fact that he’s been in a coma for the last two years. This book has received glowing reviews.

Panel: Women, Love and the Narrative in Literature


Teju Cole, rising literary star

Teju Cole (born 1975) is a renowned Nigerian-American novelist and journalist, widely regarded as one of the most talented writers of his generation. Born in Michigan, Cole was raised in Nigeria before returning to the USA as a teenager. His two homes are important features in his writing.

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Teju Cole

Cole's first book, Every Day is for the Thief (2007), was named Book of the Year by National Public Radio and the New York Times. Its protagonist returns to Lagos, Nigeria after a fifteen­ year absence, visiting old friends and family and reflecting on the ways in which the city, and his identity, have changed.

His second novel, Open City (2011), is written from the perspective of a young Nigerian psychiatrist in New York City, who walks the streets daily and observes the heaving metropolis that surrounds him. A meditative reflection on history and humanity, this book received a great number of awards and accolades, including the PEN/Hemingway Award.

Cole also writes for newspapers and magazines and is a frequent contributor to The New Yorker. His thought-provoking essay on the Charlie Hebdo massacre, in which he discussed freedom of speech and its status in Western society, gained widespread attention.

Cole is also an art historian and a photographer, and his photo exhibition Blind Spot will be displayed at Eymundsson Bookstore in Reykjavík for the duration of the festival.

Panel: Home Away from Home, Blind Spot & Official Opening and Keynote Address


Timur Vermes, agent provocateur

Timur Vermes is the author of Look Who's Back (2012), one of the most controversial novels of the decade. It imagines Adolf Hitler awakening in Berlin in 2011 and making a successful career as a satirical Hitler impersonator. A bitter satire of contemporary society and a comedy that makes readers laugh and feel uncomfortable at the same time, this novel has divided readers and critics across the world.

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Timur Vermes

Since its publication, Look Who's Back has topped bestseller charts, with more than a million copies sold in Germany, and has been translated into 27 languages, inspiring heated debates on history, democracy, and the nature of media and literature in our times. The book will be published in Icelandic this year, under the title Aftur á kreik, translated by Bjarni Jónsson.

Vermes was born in 1967 in Nuremberg, to a German mother and a Hungarian father, who fled Hungary after the suppression of the 1956 revolution. He previously worked as a journalist and ghostwriter.

The film adaptation of Look Who's Back will premiere in Germany in October.

Panel: Writing About World War II: Can you? Should you? How to?