“Ad ganga med bok I maganum.”
So goes this Icelandic phrase, from a nation of just over 300,000 people where 1 in 10 will publish a book, and where there are more writers, more books published and more books read per head than anywhere else in the world.
Reading this BBC article, it made me think I should move to Iceland – a nation of storytellers. A place where you can sit on a park bench and scan a barcode with your phone to listen to a short story. Where people name their cats after Halldor Laxness, the Nobel Literature Laureate, and receive free book catalogues through their doors; the bókatíðindi or “book news”, in the run up to Christmas. (all I ever get are pizza menus and the occasional furniture catalogue.)
“The bókatíðindi is like the firing of the guns at the opening of the race. It’s not like this is a catalogue that gets put in everybody’s mailbox and everybody ignores it. Books get attention here.”
This ties in with the Icelandic version of Super Thursday – the Jólabókaflóð, or Christmas book flood. Although this might put a bigger pressure on publishers, it might provide something positive for readers, with the writers all keen to produce something that will get them noticed above all the others, especially with so many books produced for so few readers. The Icelandic Christmas tradition of giving books as gifts on Christmas Eve and then spending the night reading is possibly why the Jólabókaflóð is so prevalent.
Iceland’s inspirational landscapes – lakes, lava beds and volcanoes – along with its rich history traditional Icelandic sagas, telling tales of the early years of the country’s history, no doubt makes it a land full of inspiration for writers.