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It is interesting that after Ingólfur, several hundred years pass without Reykjavík being especially mentioned in stories and written sources. It is not until the middle of the eighteenth century that this changes, even though the town was granted exclusive trading charter in 1786. Reykjavík was however still just a village growing at a snail's pace. Over the next decades the country's main institutions and offices were moved to Reykjavík, schools were established, the population started to grow and in the end the town started to live up to its trading-town status. Copenhagen remained the country's capital city until 1904, at which time Iceland was granted Home Rule and partial autonomy from Denmark, after having first been a subject of Norway from 1262 and later of Denmark. Home Rule gave Icelanders their own minister answerable to Parliament, government offices were established in Reykjavík, and consequently, Reykjavík took over from Copenhagen as the capital of Iceland. This development led to full autonomy in 1918 and concluded in independence and the founding of the republic in 1944. For centuries Iceland was a very isolated place, and in fact it was not until after WWII that the isolation broke; the old, Icelandic farming society was transforming into a modern urban and industrial society of which Reykjavík was the main hub. People flocked to the town, and there was a steady increase in the population throughout the twentieth century. Around the turn of the century in 1900 just under 80% of the population lived out in the country, but 100 years later the situation is completely reversed, with only around six percent of the nation living in rural areas.2

A poem by Max Jacob tells of a man who came from Paris to another city because there were not enough physicians in Paris to deal with all the ailments that affected him. But it's not only people that suffer illness and need help. The ailments of the young city of Reykjavík are so manifold – and so complex – that her poets and novelists need outside help to reach a proper diagnosis. Bragi Ólafsson, writer (b. 1962)

Iceland is one of the smallest linguistic areas in the world, counting only around 320.000 inhabitants and very few speakers outside the country. Icelandic is very close to the language that was spoken by Norse men in the Middle Ages in most of the Nordic countries and in certain areas in northern Europe. The language is one of the nation's most distinguishing characteristics. It has changed relatively little since the time of settlement compared to the other Nordic languages, and in fact Icelanders today can still read the original medieval texts with relative ease. Nowhere in Europe is the history of literature as continuous in this respect as in Iceland. Therefore, the language is particularly precious and vulnerable at the same time, and that is why Icelanders have been more aware than many neighbouring nations to systematically cultivate and cherish their native tongue. Literature plays a vital role in this, as the language undergoes constant renewal and development within fiction and other forms of literature,

Reykjavík City Lake in central Reykjavík with a view toward the Old Harbour and the surrounding mountains. Photograph: Ragnar Th. Sigurdsson

Reykjavík – History and culture

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Reykjavik City of Literature - Submission  
Reykjavik City of Literature - Submission  

Reykjavik City of Literature - Submission

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