For a literature lover like me, the fabulous Icelandic tradition, known as Jólabókaflóðið, or the annual Christmas book flood, is a real treat and one that stems from the age-old practice of giving books as Christmas presents. The event, which is organised by the wonderful folks from Bókmenntaborgin – Reykjavík UNESCO City of Literature – took place for the first time this year at the Harpa Concert Hall and Conference Centre where publishing companies had set up lots of colourful stalls displaying stacks of new titles released just in time for the holiday season. Apart from the authors in attendance, who were busy signing copies of their books and talking to guests, there were lively readings and fun activities for the kids.
Of course, most of the titles are in Icelandic, but there are always a number of books available in English, such as Brian Pilkington’s adorable kids’ book The Yule Cat. Brian (pictured above), who hails from Liverpool, has been living in Iceland since the 1970s and with his captivating drawings and paintings of legendary characters from Iceland folklore, he’s become one of the country’s most beloved illustrators.Just like everyone else, we were mainly there to enjoy the festivities and to stock up on some thrilling new titles, however, as well as the literary delights on offer, lots of stalls were furnished with tasty treats, chocolates and sweets. Needless to say, we left quite a bit heavier than when we arrived.
For more on Iceland’s fascinating literary history and traditions visit the Reykjavík UNESCO City of Literature website!