14 Invested with the Order of the Falcon

president of iceland Guðni Th. Jóhannesson

President Guðni Th. Jóhannesson awarded 14 individuals with the Order of the Falcon at the presidential residence, Bessastaðir, this New Year’s Day.

The award is the highest public honour in Iceland and is given out twice annually, on New Year’s Day, and June 17, Iceland’s National Day. The Order of the Falcon recognizes contributions to Icelandic society in a number of fields, including charity, scholarship, art, science, and leadership. The award is Iceland’s only order of chivalry and was founded in 1921 by King Christian X of Denmark.

Among the recipients of the order this year include actress Nína Dögg Filippusdóttir for her contributions to drama and television, epidemiologist Unnur Anna Valdimarsdóttir for her research, and systems engineer Örn S. Kaldalóns for his promotion of the Icelandic language in the tech sector.

A full list of this year’s recipients can be found here, in Icelandic.


Andrey Kurkov Wins the Halldór Laxness International Literature Prize

Ukrainian author Andrey Kurkov is the recipient of the 2022 Halldór Laxness International Literature Prize, RÚV reports. The prize, which includes a purse of €15,000 [ISK 2.1 million; $ 14,946] is awarded to internationally recognized authors who have contributed to “a renewal of the narrative tradition,” which were the grounds for Halldór Laxness receiving the Nobel Prize himself in 1955.

One of Ukraine’s best-known novelists and the president of PEN Ukraine, Kurkov will receive the award in person at the University of Iceland on September 7. The award will be presented by Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir, after which, the author will deliver a lecture in English. The award ceremony will be followed by a reading with other authors at Iðnó in the evening.

Kurkov is the author of 19 novels, including the wildly successful and satirical Death and the Penguin, which has been translated into more than 30 languages, and 2020’s Grey Bees, which is set in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine and details “his country’s past struggles with Russia.” This year, he’ll publish a book of his own personal diary entries, which he started writing on the eve of the Russian invasion.

He’s also written nine books for children, numerous documentary and TV scripts, and recorded an eight-part audio series for the BBC called “Letter from Ukraine,” detailing life in the country during the current war.

The Halldór Laxness International Literature Prize has been awarded since 2019. English novelist Ian McEwan was the first recipient, followed by Turkish novelist and activist Elif Shafak. Shafak was part of the selection committee for this year’s award, along with journalist Egill Helgason, of the books and literary criticism TV programme Kiljan, and director of the Reykjavík International Literature Festival Stella Soffía Jóhannesdóttir.

Gyða Valtýsdóttir Wins Nordic Council Music Prize

Icelandic musician Gyða Valtýsdóttir has won the Nordic Council Music Prize. The prize was awarded by conductor and former winner of the prize Susanna Mälkki at an awards ceremony at the Stockholm Concert Hall, which was broadcast live yesterday evening.

Gyða entered the spotlight in the late 90s as a member of experimental pop group múm. She later left the band to study classical cello and has since built a diverse and vibrant solo career as a performer and composer.

“Gyða’s music and performance is highly unique and captivating, demonstrating a special sense of phrasing and timing,” the statement from the jury reads. “Gyða crosses and bridges the gap between musical genres in a unique way, not least by dismissing any notion of their differences. Whether performing her own music or the music of others she brings her personal originality to the music through her instrumental inventiveness.”

In an interview with Iceland Review, Gyða stated “I think we all have multiple personalities and that’s a good thing. And instead of trying to put it all together and say ‘This is who I am’ because that’s the loudest voice and the other ones are quieter, you can allow yourself to have different sides and nurture all of them, even if they’re very contradictory.”

The Nordic Council Music Prize is awarded on alternate years to a work by a living composer in one year and to an ensemble or artist the next. The prize is open to artists from Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Finland, Greenland, the Faroe Islands, and the Åland Islands.

Ian McEwan Receives First-Ever Halldór Laxness International Literary Prize

British novelist Ian McEwan is the first-ever recipient of the Halldór Laxness International Literary Prize. The award was announced by Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir at an international symposium on Halldór Laxness, which was held today.

The award, which is accompanied by a monetary prize of €15,000 [ISK 2,039,850; $16,704], is given to an international author whose work is renewing the art of storytelling. This motivation echoes the statement made by the Nobel Prize for Literature committee in 1955, the year that Halldór won the prize and thus became Iceland’s first—and still only—Nobel Prize winner. As the committee explained at the time, Halldór received the Nobel “for his vivid epic power which has renewed the great narrative art of Iceland.”

Ian McEwan was not able to attend the presentation ceremony in person but will be making a visit to Iceland in September to receive it. A video message from the author was shown during the announcement ceremony in which he said that the award meant a great deal to him and that he was looking forward to “the city where the great Laxness was born and wrote.”

Ian was named recipient of the inaugural award by a committee including First Lady Eliza Reid, Icelandic author Einar Már Guðmundsson, and Stella Soffía Jóhannesdóttir, the director of the Reykjavík International Literature Festival, which is currently underway. In its justification for the award, the committee wrote that “It was not least the provocative subject matter [of his work], the seldom-discussed and sensitive themes, which made the author stand out. It has been said of Ian McEwan that he deals not merely with the headlines of the mind, but in equal measure the small print of the soul.”

“Ian McEwan’s work has met with consistent success,” continued the statement, “but he has also remained controversial, which should be regarded as a sign of enduring vitality. With this award, we acknowledge a spectacular career and an author with a pressing message.”

The award is presented in a collaboration among the Prime Minister’s office, the Ministry of Education, Promote Iceland, Gljúfrasteinn (the Halldór Laxness museum), Forlagið Publishing, and the Reykjavík International Literary Festival. Going forward, the award will always be presented during this festival, which takes place every two years.

Read the committee’s full statement on Ian McEwan’s work here.

Þorleifur Örn Arnarsson Named Theater Director of the Year in Germany

Theater director Þorleifur Örn Arnarsson was named Director of the Year in Germany’s annual Der Faust awards, RÚV reports. Þorleifur was thus honored for the play Die Edda, which he co-wrote with novelist and playwright Mikael Torfason.

Die Edda premiered at the city theater in Hannover in March and was very positively received. Upon his nomination, Þorleifur said that it was a great honor to be nominated for an award with such a long and distinguished history and thereby be included among many of the most remarkable artists of the 20th century. He was also particularly pleased to be nominated for a work that has such strong ties to Iceland.

Þorleifur has directed numerous plays in both Germany and Switzerland, where he has met with considerable success. Appropriately enough, his next project with Mikael Torfason is indeed an adaptation of Goethe’s Faust, which will debut at the Norwegian National Theater next year.

You can watch a preview of Die Edda (in German) here.

Tómas Guðmundsson Literature Award Winner Announced

Haukur Ingvarsson

Haukur Ingvarsson is the winner of the 2018 Tómas Guðmundsson Literature Award. The award was founded in memory of poet Tómas Guðmundsson and has been awarded by the City of Reykjavík to an unpublished collection of poetry since 1994.

Haukur’s submission is titled Vistarverur and was chosen from 60 anonymous submissions. Though Vistrarverur can be translated as “living quarters,” Haukur suggests the translation Ecostentialism. “Tilvistarstefna means existentialism in Icelandic and vistkerfi means ecosystem,” Haukur explains. “The poems sprung from the emotions that arise from reflecting on global warming.”

“The word itself, vistarvera, indicates a feeling of place and inhabitants, in addition to referring to existence itself and the state of being in it,” reads the award jury’s statement. “All of this comes together in the poems which are characterised by speculations on the connection between the material and the spiritual, emphasising the continuum between the two.”

In addition to a publication deal, the award comes with a cash prize of ISK 800,000 ($6,800/€5,900).

Saxhóll Staircase Receives Award Nomination

Icelandic landscape architecture firm Landslag has been nominated for an international award for their staircase up Saxhóll crater in Snæfellsjökull National Park. RÚV reported first.

The prize, known as the Rosa Barba Landscape Architecture International Prize, will be awarded at the International Biennial of Landscape Architecture of Barcelona in September. Landslag is one of nine nominees from around the world, including firms from China, Mexico, France and Israel.

This is the Icelandic firm’s second nomination for the award, the first being in 2003 for the design of avalanche protection walls in Siglufjörður, North Iceland.