Sunday, January 19, 2014

Where Everybody Has a Book in Their Belly

"Iceland is experiencing a book boom. This island nation of just over 300,000 people has more writers, more books published and more books read, per head, than anywhere else in the world."

Personally, I love the idea of park benches equipped with barcodes so people can listen to a book as they sit and watch the pigeons.

Among other literary advantages, the Icelandic government is generous with annual grants and stipends to writers, which can make the dream of working as a full-time professional writer a reality.

Iceland also sponsors a yearly writers retreat in April featuring intimate panels, workshops, and full-day outing into the spectacular Icelandic countryside (geysers!). 

Iceland: Where one in 10 people will publish a book

By Rosie Goldsmith, BBC News Magazine

It is hard to avoid writers in Reykjavik. There is a phrase in Icelandic, "ad ganga med bok I maganum", everyone gives birth to a book. Literally, everyone "has a book in their stomach". One in 10 Icelanders will publish one.

"Does it get rather competitive?" I ask the young novelist, Kristin Eirikskdottir. "Yes. Especially as I live with my mother and partner, who are also full-time writers. But we try to publish in alternate years so we do not compete too much."

Special saga tours - saga as in story, that is, not over-50s holidays - show us story-plaques on public buildings.

Dating from the 13th Century, Icelandic sagas tell the stories of the country's Norse settlers, who began to arrive on the island in the late 9th Century.

Sagas are written on napkins and coffee cups. Each geyser and waterfall we visit has a tale of ancient heroes and heroines attached. Our guide stands up mid-tour to recite his own poetry - our taxi driver's father and grandfather write biographies.

Public benches have barcodes so you listen to a story on your smartphone as you sit.

Read the rest of this fascinating article HERE.

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