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World literature in Icelandic translation. Don Quijote by Miguel de Cervantes, translated by Gudbergur Bergsson. Paperback edition, Reykjavík. JPV, 2006 (originally translated in 1981–1984). Ovid's Metamorphoses, translated by Kristján Árnason. Reykjavík. Mál og menning, 2009.

Number of Translated Works of Fiction As can be seen in this chart, the number of translated works of fiction has been growing in the past two decades.

Translations have always enriched Icelandic culture and played a big part in the nation's cultural growth. It is vital for such a small nation and linguistic area to form a dialogue with other nations, and that is where translations of literary works from other countries and cultures play a critical role. The Bible was printed in its entirety in Icelandic in 1584, the Iliad and Odyssey by Homer were translated in the nineteenth century by Sveinbjörn Egilsson, poet and schoolmaster, and all of Shakespeare's chief work has been translated into Icelandic, some in more than one version. All the Shakespearean plays were translated by Helgi Hálf­danar­son in the twentieth century, and Helgi also translated other renowned works of literature, such as Ibsen's plays, the Greek tragedies, the Qu'ran, and poetry from various parts of the world. Other important translations are Ingibjörg Haraldsdóttir's translations from Russian of Dostoyevsky's works and other classics, Gudbergur Bergsson's translations of Spanish literature, most notably Don Quixote, Einar Bragi's translations of Strindberg's and Ibsen's plays, Ástrádur Eysteinsson's and Eysteinn Thorvaldsson's translations of works by Kafka, Rúnar Helgi Vignisson's translation of Light in August by William Faulkner, Ulysses by James Joyce translated by Sigurdur A. Magnússon, Rimbaud's A Season in Hell, translated by Sölvi Björn Sigurdsson, and Kristján Árnason's newly published Metamorphoses by Ovid, for which he was awarded the DV Culture Prize for Literature in 2010 as well as the Icelandic Translator's Prize. Translations of contemporary literature count works by authors such as Milan Kundera, J.M. Coetzee, Günter Grass, Isabel Allende, Ngugi wa Thiong‘o, Alaa al-Aswany, Doris Lessing, Ian McEwan, Nadine Gordimer, Naguib Mahfouz, Umberto Eco, Gabriel García Márques, Jhumpa Lahiri – and the list could go on. Children's literature has also been translated, most of Astrid Lindgren's work has been published in Icelandic and the same goes for other classics like Tove Jansson's Moomin books, Alice in Wonderland, and C.S. Lewis's Narnia books.

Information from the Icelandic Publishers Association.


Children's Books

Adult Fiction

250 200 150 100



UNESCO City of Literature

20 10

20 09

20 08

20 07

20 06

20 05

20 04

20 03

20 02

20 01

20 00

19 99

19 98

19 97

19 96

19 95

19 94

19 93

19 92

19 91


Reykjavik City of Literature - Submission  

Reykjavik City of Literature - Submission

Reykjavik City of Literature - Submission  

Reykjavik City of Literature - Submission