The Nordic Council has announced the 13 nominees for its 2020 literature prize. This year’s two Icelandic nominees for the prize are Fríða Ísberg, for her short story collection Kláði (‘Itch’), and Bergsveinn Birgisson, for his novel Lifandilífslækur (‘Vitality Brook’).
“The short story collection Kláði…is a beautiful example of the breath of spring that young writers can bring to literature” the committee wrote in their rationale. “The narrator considers old subjects with new eyes, and the stories are in many ways different from what they were. Renewals and changes are among the most important conditions of life for literature; sometimes they arise when new people take the stage and look at topics in a different light. The narrative method is both realistic and modernist. The value of the work lies first and foremost in a strong emotional approach, which requires the reader to relate to attitudes and values in the present time.”
The committee also commended Bergsveinn for his historical novel, which “…plays out in the borderland between two worlds: the realism and scientism of the 18th century stand opposed to the forces of nature and mysticism. It is hard not to see the work’s reference to modern times, where dangerous dogmatic interests threaten human and emotional intelligence.”
The Nordic Council Literature Prize has been awarded since 1962. It is given to a literary work (poetry, prose, or drama) written in one of the Nordic languages and is meant to “raise interest in the Nordic cultural community and Nordic co-operation on the environment, as well as to recognise outstanding artistic and environmental efforts.” Eight Icelandic authors have previously won the prize: Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir (2018), Gyrðir Elíasson (2011), Sjón (2005), Einar Már Guðmundsson (1995), Fríða A. Sigurðardóttir (1992), Thor Vilhjálmsson (1988), Snorri Hjartarson (1981), and Ólafur Jóhann Sigurðsson (1976).
The winner of this year’s prize will be announced on October 27 in Reykjavík in conjunction with a meeting of the Nordic Council. The winner will receive a Northern Lights statuette and DKK 350,000 (ISK 6.49m/€46,856).