The City of Reykjavik, Iceland, has been designated as UNESCO City of Literature. The Mayor of Reykjavik, Jon Gnarr, and the City of Reykjavik’s Department for Culture and Tourism received the official letter of nomination on August 4th 2011.
“I celebrate the fact that Reykjavik has been designated UNESCO City of Literature. This is a great honour for Reykjavik. Icelandic art and culture is internationally known and this title confirms just how valuable our cultural heritage actually is. Our culture is the most valuable of all our resources“, says Mayor Jon Gnarr.
UNESCO’s letter 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 UNESCO City of Literature, the City of Reykjavik will, through cooperation between key partners in the field, aim to further enhance literary life in the city, for example by establishing a Centre for Literature and a platform for literary events and projects of all kinds, in addition to projects aimed at stimulating reading and cooperation within the educational system. The City of Reykjavik emphasises the importance of cooperation amongst all parties involved in literature, as the title Reykjavik City of Literature is above all a common good, also for its citizens. The city is also enthusiastic about the possibility of strong cooperation with other UNESCO Cities of Literature.
Ali Bowden, Director of the Edinburgh UNESCO City of Literature Trust, states: "We are absolutely delighted that Reykjavik has joined our UNESCO City of Literature network. Reykjavik’s designation as a City of Literature will help people everywhere appreciate the city’s fascinating literary heritage. The designation will help the city grow and develop its cultural offering, as it has done in Edinburgh, and Reykjavik will be a valuable partner in our international Creative City network."
Reykjavik is the fifth city in the world to receive the title and joins other UNESCO Cities of Literature, namely Edinburgh in Scotland, Melbourne in Australia, Iowa City in the USA and Dublin in Ireland, in the Network. Reykjavik is thus the first non-native English speaking city to receive the title. The title is a permanent one, under the condition that the city fulfills its commitments relative to the title. UNESCO Cities of Literature are part of the larger UNESCO Creative Cities Network, of which Reykjavik is the 29th member.
The City of Reykjavík’s Department of Culture and Tourism handles the application, in close cooperation with The Icelandic Literature Fund, the Writer’s Union of Iceland, the Icelandic Publishers Association, the University of Iceland’s School of Humanities, Reykjavík City Library and the City of Reykjavík’s Department of Education.
The project “Reykjavik City of Literature“ will be officially launched at the Reykjavik International Literary Festival in September 2011. The project will also be promoted internationally at the Frankfurt Book Fair in October, where Iceland is Guest of Honour, in cooperation with the project Fabulous Iceland.
Photograph: Paul van Riel.
Kristín Vidarsdóttir and Audur Rán Thorgeirsdóttir
The Árni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Studies
The Icelandic Literature Fund
Fabulous Iceland - Guest of Honour at Frankfurt Book Fair 2011