Reykjavík became a UNESCO City Of Literature in 2011, the first non-english speaking city to join that series of cities. Though that title–only six years old–seems to be little late.
Reykjavík, and Iceland in general, is known for its tradition of literature, both reading and writing. There is even a term for all the books you’re are going to receive at christmas: jólabókaflóð or “christmas book flood.”
The festival is free to attend and takes place at venues around Reykjavík. You can also stream the events live at home through the festival’s website and catch some your favourite writers in an interview or as part of a panel.
To kick off the festival this year, Björk’s favourite writer and President of PEN Iceland, Sjón, had a discussion with Naila Zahin Ana from Bangladesh. The discussion is part of a series called “The Absent Author.” It’s for authors who have been imprisoned or killed or silenced in order to keep their ideas, writing and memory alive. “The Absent Author” being discussed was the atheist blogger, writer and activist Avijit Roy who was murdered in 2015.
You can see both Sjón and Naila Zahin Ana in the main photo of this article, but you might recognize the woman on the right as well. She’s not just the organizer of the Iceland Writers’ Retreat. She’s also the First Lady of Iceland, Eliza Reid.