Icelandic Author Accepts Nordic Literature Prize Skip to content

Icelandic Author Accepts Nordic Literature Prize

Icelandic author Gyrdir Elíasson accepted the Nordic Council’s Literature Prize at a celebratory ceremony at the Royal Danish Academy of Music in Copenhagen from Nordic Council President Bertel Haarder yesterday.


Gyrdir Elíasson. Photo by Páll Stefánsson.

Elíasson was awarded for his short story collection Milli trjánna (“Between the Trees”) which has been published in the Nordic countries in past months; the work has received critical acclaim. The prize is approximately ISK 7 million (61,000, EUR 44,265), Morgunbladid reports.

In his speech of acceptance, Elíasson said as a teenager he enjoyed reading The Ice Palace by Norwegian author Tarjei Vesaas and The Good Hope by Faroese William Heinesen, both of whom are previous recipients of the Nordic Council’s Literature Prize; and he never suspected that one day he would accept the prize himself.

Elíasson mentioned other Nordic authors whose work he enjoyed as a child and who evoked his passion to write, Selma Lagerlöf, Tove Jansson, Anne Cath. Vestly, Maria Gripe, Astrid Lindgren and Sigrid Undset.

“Possibly along with the unknown authors of the Icelandic Sagas, particularly Grettir’s Saga, of which I was fonder than other stories because I grew up in Skagafjördur […] where it mostly takes place,” Elíasson added.

“But perhaps Icelandic folktales were my biggest inspiration. Shortly afterwards Knut Hamsun came along and my encounter with [his work] probably had the decisive effect on the course I took,” he explained.

Elíasson concluded his speech by highlighting the importance of the interplay between man and nature, stating that if one day the urban communities completely forget about their roots all is lost. “Underneath all that concrete there is still soil,” he commented.

Elíasson is the seventh Icelandic author to accept the Nordic Council’s Literature Prize which has been awarded for the past 50 years. The others are Ólafur Jóhann Sigurdsson, Snorri Hjartarson, Thor Vilhjálmsson, Frída Á. Sigurdardóttir, Einar Már Gudmundsson and Sjón.

Yesterday Swedish director Pernille August accepted the Nordic Council’s Film Prize for Svinalängorna (Beyond), Swedish composer and saxophonist Mats Gustafsson the Music Prize and the Scandic Hotels the Environmental Prize for being leaders of sustainable tourism for two decades.

Click here to read more about Elíasson being announced as the award’s recipient this year and here to read part of an article about him from the print edition of Iceland Review.


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