Reykjavík International Literary Festival

Free entry

Events at The Nordic House

Wednesday 8th of September

Children’s Program: Read and write with the Moomins The Moomin exhibition offers an interactive way to learn about the alphabet while embarking on a tour of the magical Moomin valley. Together, children and adults can learn about characters and stories from the Moomin valley and explore emotions such as disappointment, sadness and wanderlust. Guided tours for preschool and school groups can be booked by sending an inquiry to The exhibition is in collaboration with the Moomin Characters. Admission is free and everyone is welcome. The exhibition runs from 08.09.2021 to 30.01.2022.

16:00: Read Hour: The Invisible Child

Most of us know the Moomins, the fairy tale characters who have delighted both children and adults for years. On the occasion of International Literacy Day on September 8th, we invite you to a reading or ReadHour based on the Finnish model. Hosts will read from Tove Jansson’s beautiful story about the Invisible Child. Together we follow the footsteps of the Moomins and meet the invisible Ninny, who with the help of the Moomins becomes visible again. The program begins with a conversation between Gerður Kristný and Sophia Jansson about Tove Jansson and the Moomins, and after that a reading of Jansson’s story will take place in various languages. The readers of The Invisible Child are Sophia Jansson, Gerður Kristný, Eliza Reid, Erling Kjærbo, Stein Olav Romslo Halla Nosøe Poulsen and Ann-Sofie Stude and they will read alternately in English, Icelandic, Danish, Norwegian, Swedish, Finnish and Faroese.

The event is part of the Finnish Read Hour 2021 campaign. Information about the Read Hour can be found here.

Share your reading experience and reading tips on social media under the hashtag #ReadHour!

Thursday 9th of September

11:00: Writing Through Grief and Loss

Patrik Svensson and Halla Þórlaug Óskarsdóttir. Moderator: Björn Halldórsson.

Swedish writer and journalist Patrik Svensson broke through around the world with The Gospel of the Eels, which is both a scientific analysis of the eel but also a poetic and beautiful memoir about a unique relationship between father and son, and the author’s way of coping with the loss of his father. Halla Þórlaug attracted a lot of attention for her book The Quiet Game, a fragmented story that deals in a candid way with love, grief, the loss of her mother and the role of motherhood. The moderator of the discussion is Björn Halldórsson, author of the book Route One, which was published earlier this year, and which deals specifically with grief and the loss of a father.

12:00: Home and Away

Khaled Khalifa and Mao Alheimdsdóttir. Moderator: Gauti Kristmannsson.

Here, the meaning of the term home will be discussed. The subject is becoming more and more complex, as never in history have more people been away from their home. Or are they? What does it mean to be at home? Is home a specific place? And what happens when the place you call your home changes, and becomes completely different from what you have known? Mao Alheimsdóttir is of Polish origin but lives and works in Iceland, here she has chosen her home. She received a new voices grant for her book Weather Reports and Funerals, soon to be published. Khaled Khalifa lives and works in Syria. He has decided to stay in his home in Damascus, despite the fact that the city and the whole country are far from being the home where he grew up.

13:00: The Boundaries of Fiction and Reality

Saša Stanišić and Vigdis Hjorth. Moderator: Fríða Ísberg.

Where is the line between fiction and reality? What is the author’s position towards the blurred boundaries of imagination and truth, fantasy and facts? The novel Will and Testament is probably Vigdis Hjorth’s best known work and has been translated into many languages. The books’ protagonist is a woman in dispute with her family, and takes on the violence of her childhood. The book is widely regarded to be autobiographical at least in parts, although the extent of this is unclear. Saša Stanišić attracted a lot of attention for his novel approach, original use of language and lively storytelling. Among other things, he has written about his own experience in his novels, the experience of a young boy from the Bosnian war who seeks refuge in stories and narratives.

15:30: Sagenhaftes Island: Panel on Icelandic literature abroad

Christopher MacLehose, Juergen Boos, Regina Kammerer, Halldór Guðmundsson and Tina Flecken. Moderator: Thomas Böhm. Host: Stella Soffía Jóhannesdóttir.

Ten years ago, this fall, Iceland was Guest of Honour at the Frankfurter Buchmesse. The project was named Sagenhaftes Island and got much attention, both in Germany and at the fair. We will use the occasion to look back on it: what did we learn, and how useful was it for Icelandic literature abroad? Furthermore, we will discuss the concept of the Guest of Honour and the future perspectives of the book-fair, and of course the importance of literary translations. Opening remarks: Christopher MacLehose, publisher at Mountain Leopard Press. Panel discussion with Juergen Boos, director of Frankfurter Buchmesse, Regina Kammerer, publisher at btb and Luchterhand, Tina Flecken, translator of Icelandic literature and Halldór Guðmundsson, project manager of Sagenhaftes Island, moderated by Thomas Böhm.

Friday 10th of September

11:00: Closed Communities: Barbara Demick in conversation with Þóra Arnórsdóttir

Barbara Demick is an award-winning American journalist and writer best known for her work on human rights and economic and social unrest in Eastern Europe and Asia. Demick has written three novels that deal in one way or another with ideas about war and closed societies. Demick’s first novel, Logavina Street: Life and Death in a Sarajevo Neighborhood, was published in 1996 and deals with the Bosnian war and how it divided the people of Logavina Street in Sarajevo, where for centuries families of different religions had lived in harmony. In her second novel, Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea (2009), the stories of the fates of six North Korean refugees are intertwined, telling of daily life and the cruel fate of this most isolated country in the world. That book attracted a lot of attention and went on a triumphant journey around the world. In her latest work, the novel Eat the Buddha: Life and Death in a Tibetan Town (2020), Barbara Demick sheds light on a culture that has long been romanticized by Westerners as spiritual and peaceful. It shows what it really means to be a modern-day Tibetan, trying to preserve their culture, religion and language.

12:00: History, Psychology, Sci-fi

Sigrún Pálsdóttir, Helene Flood and Alexander Dan. Moderator: Árni Matthíasson.

How do ideas come to life? Does the form control the story or vice versa? In this panel, various forms of fiction and narrative writing will be discussed, what the forms have in common and what separates them. What are the characteristics of these authors’ writings and where are the boundaries between fiction and reality? Sigrún Pálsdóttir has written both fiction and non-fiction, as well as books that straddle the border. Helene Flood broke through all over the world with the novel The Therapist where the methods of psychology are tested and Alexander Dan creates new worlds and realities in his books.

16:00 – 17:30: Short Stories of the World: An International Literary Festival in Five Volumes

The short stories of the world were published in five volumes between 2016 and 2020, edited by Kristín Guðrún Jónsdóttir, Jón Karl Helgason and Rúnar Helgi Vignisson. The 9 volumes contain 94 stories from 75 countries and cover six continents of the world, with the exception of Antarctica: Europe, Africa, Asia & Asia, Latin America and North America. This is one of the largest translation projects in recent years in Iceland, where 45 translators worked together and translated stories from sixteen languages. Program in Icelandic.

Saturday 11th of September

11:00: Children’s program: Reading and writing with the Moomins – Workshop

Free workshop for 4-10 year olds

Young guests are invited to take part in a conversation, games, reading and craft. The alphabet plays a front role in the exhibition and each letter and picture in the exhibition connects to a feeling and a story. In the workshop we will go through different feelings such as disappointment, sadness, and joy. Short parts of different Moomin stories will be read to investigate each feeling and each letter.
Please register by sending name, Icelandic social security number (if possible) and telephone number to

12:00: Tales from the Border

Leila Slimani, Nina Wähä and Bergþóra Snæbjörnsdóttir. Moderator: York Underwood.

The stories that appear to us in everyday life are often rather homogeneous. The role of literature, however, must to some extent revolve around opening up the world further, centering voices on the fringe and creating understanding. Whose responsibility is it to write such books? Does the author herself need to be marginalized in order to discuss the subject, or is the requirement for marginalized groups to constantly explain themselves unfair? In this panel, stories from the fringes will be discussed. Leila Slimani, Nina Wähä and Bergþóra Snæbjörnsdóttir have all in one way or another discussed the people on the borders, whether it be geographically, socially or mentally.

13:00: Children’s program: Swedish story time with Sophia Jansson

Welcome to Story time in Swedish for children at the Nordic House Childrens Library, with Sophia Jansson, niece of Tove Jansson.

The story time is recommended for children age 2-10, but everyone that understands Swedish is welcome to join us.

This is a free event for parents and children who want to meet other Swedish speaking children. Parents are welcome to participate together with the children, or to have a look in the book shelves upstairs.

13:00: Icelanders’ Self-image in Literature and a Different Perspective

Kristof Magnússon, Eliza Reid, Joachim Schmidt, Egill Bjarnason and Mao Alheimsdóttir discuss. Moderator: Halldór Guðmundsson.

The literary island of Iceland is examined and the rich part that literature has, or had, in the nation’s identity. Is this beautification or self-delusion? How does this affect authors who come from elsewhere and who deal with Iceland, and how do they perceive the literary landscape here?

14:00: Children’s program: Finnish story time with Sophia Jansson

Welcome to Story time in Finnish for children at the Nordic House Childrens Library, with Sophia Jansson, niece of Tove Jansson.

The story time is recommended for children age 2-10, but everyone that understands Finnish is welcome to join us.

This is a free event for parents and children who want to meet other Finnish speaking children. Parents are welcome to participate together with the children, or to have a look in the book shelves upstairs.

14:00: Orðstír Honorary Award: Translators and Authors

A translators program where the recipients of Orðstír, an honorary award for translators who translate Icelandic to other languages, talk with authors. Salka Guðmundsdóttir moderates the discussion. This event is in Icelandic.


For the full festival program including all venues click here.