International Recognition for Icelandic Authors Skip to content

International Recognition for Icelandic Authors

By Iceland Review

Icelandic author Jón Kalman Stefánsson has been nominated for the respected Italian Premio Bottari Lattes Grinzane literary award for his novel Heaven and Hell (2007), which appeared in the Italian translation of Silvia Cosimini last year.


Jón Kalman Stefánsson. Photo by Páll Stefánsson.

Two Italian authors were also nominated for the award; the winner will be announced on October 13, 2012, Morgunblaðið reports.

Meanwhile, another Icelandic author, Einar Már Guðmundsson, accepted the “Little Nobel” Nordic literary prize of the Swedish Academy on Wednesday, reports.

“The prize is a firm confirmation of what I’ve been doing,” Einar said, declaring it of great importance for himself and his career. He is the third Icelandic author to receive the prize; the others are Thor Vilhjálmsson and Guðbergur Bergsson.

In addition to the honor, the prize comes with SEK 350,000 (ISK 6.6 million, USD 52,000, EUR 39,000).

A third Icelandic writer, Sjón, has been shortlisted for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize for 2012, for his novel From the Mouth of the Whale. Sjón’s first novel to be published in English, The Blue Fox, won the Nordic Council’s Literature Prize in 2005.

The Independent Foreign Fiction Prize is an annual award for the best contemporary fiction in translation published in the UK in 2011, and is unique in recognizing the importance of the translator in bridging the gap between languages and cultures, as stated on

From the Mouth of the Whale is written in a blend of seventeenth-century and modern Icelandic, and was superbly translated by Victoria Cribb, who praises the writer’s “amazingly inventive style.”

The story is set in medieval Iceland, 1635—the pre-Enlightenment period when science was just beginning to challenge religious authority.

The protagonist and narrator is a self-taught healer who is exiled for blasphemy and sorcery to a desolate island.

His story encompasses conflict and love: the struggle to conquer a gruesome ghost, as well as meeting and falling in love with his wife.

The scope of From the Mouth of the Whale is reminiscent of the old Icelandic sagas, but the surreal exploration of the exile’s mind is modern as can be.

The Independent Foreign Fiction Prize was founded by the British newspaper Independent, but has lately been administered by the Arts Council of Britain and Booktrust (UK).


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