Record Sales at Icelandic Publishers’ Book Fair

Iceland Publishers' Association 2023 book fair

A total of 97,829 books were sold at the Icelandic Publishers’ Association book fair in Reykjavík, which ended yesterday, RÚV reports. That is over one book sold for every four residents of Iceland – or every 2.5 residents of the capital area. A recent study found that Icelanders read or listen to an average of 2.4 books per month.

The Icelandic Publishers’ Association has held a book fair since 1952, and this year’s edition ran from February 23 to March 12 at Laugardalsvöllur in Reykjavík. Bryndís Loftsdóttir, the fair’s CEO, says Icelanders are clearly excited about reading. “The last four years have been difficult, both because of the pandemic, but also because of crazy precipitation that also made it hard for us. But even though the weather has been cold now there’s nothing better than coming here and getting a good book and then snuggling up on the couch at home.”

Around 50% of the books sold at the market this year were children’s books. Fiction accounted for another 20%, while nonfiction books and puzzle books accounted for the remaining 30%.

A survey conducted last year by the Icelandic Literature Centre found that over a third of Icelanders read or listen to books on a daily basis. The average number of books read per month had risen between 2021 and 2022. In early 2022, audiobooks accounted for a third of books read in Iceland.

Icelandic Lamb Receives Protected Designation of Origin Within EU

lambakjöt lamb Páll Stefánsson

The European Commission approved the first ever Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) from Iceland today for Icelandic lamb (ice. Íslenskt lambakjöt). The product name is applied to the meat from purebred Icelandic lambs, which have been born, raised, and slaughtered on the island of Iceland. The designation is the same type granted to champagne, and means that no product that does not fulfil the above conditions can be labelled as Icelandic lamb.

“Sheep farming has a long and rich cultural tradition in Iceland,” a notice from the European Commission reads. “The characteristics of ‘Íslenskt lambakjöt’ first and foremost consists [sic] of a high degree of tenderness and gamey taste, due to the fact that lambs roam freely in demarcated wild rangelands and grow in the wild, natural surroundings of Iceland, where they feed on grass and other plants. The long tradition of sheep farming passing down generations on the island has led to high standards of flock management and grazing methods.”

Sheep farming in Iceland stretches back over one millennium, to the settlement period. The number of sheep in the country peaked in 1978 at over 890,000, but dropped to 432,780 in 2018, the lowest number recorded since 1948. Consumption of lamb has dropped significantly in Iceland since the early 1980s but has remained relatively steady in recent years, at around 20 kilos per inhabitant per year. Icelandic lamb has also been exported to new markets in recent years, including China. The newly-bestowed Protected Designation of Origin may help Icelandic lamb on foreign markets in the coming years.

Icelandic lamb holds a similar protected designation within Iceland, as do hand-knitted Icelandic sweaters and perhaps soon, Icelandic whisky.

Iceland’s Prime Minister Travelling to Ukraine

Katrín Jakobsdóttir Bjarni Benediktsson Sigurður Ingi Ráðherra

Iceland’s Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir and Foreign Minister Þórdís Kolbrún Reykfjörð Gylfadóttir are on their way to Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital city, to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and other Ukrainian officials, Vísir reports. One of the topics of discussion will be Ukraine’s participation in the fourth summit of the Council of Europe, to be held in Reykjavík in May.

Katrín and Þórdís Kolbrún’s trip has not been highly publicised, likely for reasons of safety. They will head to the country from Poland today on a trip that will reportedly take all day and all evening.

The main purpose of the visit is to underline Iceland’s continued support and solidarity with Ukraine in the country’s defence against the illegal Russian invasion. The Icelandic and Ukrainian officials are scheduled to meet tomorrow. Reporters from Iceland’s national broadcaster RÚV are travelling alongside the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister and will report on the meetings tomorrow.

Read More: Council of Europe Summit to be Held in Reykjavík

The Council of Europe summit set to take place in Reykjavík on May 16-17 is the fourth-ever in the organisation’s 73-year history. Considerable security precautions will be in place during the summit, and Icelandic authorities have requested the assistance of foreign police forces for the event.

Some 46 nations are party to the Council of Europe, which is the oldest active pan-European organisation.

Speaker’s Committee Must Publish Contested Report

Alþingi parliament of Iceland

A report related to the sale of public assets that has been shrouded in secrecy will now likely be made public, thanks to a two-year-old legal opinion, RÚV reports. The Speaker’s Committee of Parliament is required to hand over a report made by the Auditor General in 2018 on the dealings of Lindarhvoll ehf., a private limited company created to sell public assets acquired by the state in the aftermath of the banking collapse. An ongoing lawsuit asserts Lindarhvoll did not get the best possible price for the public assets it sold.

Report’s author calls for its publication

The legal opinion in question was carried out for the Speaker’s Committee over two years ago by law firm Magna but was only made public last week. According to RÚV, the committee decided to make the 2018 report public in April of last year, but Speaker of Parliament and Independence Party MP Birgir Ármannsson has stood in the way. Birgir asserts that the articles pertaining to freedom of information do not apply to the report as it is an internal document that was never meant for the public.

The report’s author, then-Auditor General Sigurður Þórðarson, has called for it to be made public. Opposition MPs have also called for its publication.

Committee members never received copy of report

Lindarhvoll was founded by the Finance Ministry in 2016 to handle assets acquired by the government after Iceland’s banking collapse, worth up to ISK 100 billion [$708 million, €664 million]. In 2018, when the assets had been sold, Lindarhvoll was dissolved and Sigurður’s report was submitted to the Speaker’s Committee. Nevertheless, committee members never received a copy of the report and were only permitted to look at it in a closed room, without their phones or any writing implements.

Lawsuit against Lindarhvoll ongoing

In 2020, Frigus II ehf. sued Lindarhvoll and the Icelandic state for ISK 651 million [$4.6 million, €4.3 million] due to the sale of Klakka ehf. (previous called Exista) to another company. According to Frigus, the company’s purchase offer for Klakka ehf. was rejected in favour of an offer that did not fulfil the conditions of the sale. If that assertion proves true, it would mean Lindarhvoll did not necessarily act in the public’s best interest in the sale of public assets. Other internal documents from Lindarhvoll have been handed over to Frigus II in the ongoing case.

The ties between Frigus and Klakka go beyond the sale that is the lawsuit’s focus. Frigus II is owned by Sigurður Valtýsson, who is the former CEO of Exista, as well as brothers Ágúst and Lýður Guðmundsson, who had a 45% stake in Exista before the banking collapse through their company Bakkavör.

Whether and when the 2018 report on Lindarhvoll will be published has yet to be determined.

Man Fires Shot in Downtown Reykjavík Bar

Dubliner Irish pub

No one was seriously injured when a shot was fired in a downtown Reykjavík bar yesterday evening. The Reykjavík Capital Area Police Department is still looking for the shooter.

Police received a report around 7:00 PM last night that a man had entered Dubliners Irish pub in downtown Reykjavík and fired a shot inside the establishment. The shot hit a wall by the bar and the man fled the scene immediately. The police dispatched a large team to the scene, including special forces and paramedics.

Though no serious injuries were sustained, two individuals received medical assistance: one for a graze on their head and another who was concerned about their hearing. Police found a weapon near the scene shortly afterwards.

Police encourage the shooter to turn himself in.