This island nation of Iceland, population of just over 300,000 people, has more writers, more books published, and more books read, per capita, than anywhere else in the world. An intriguing report in the BBC:
It is hard to avoid writers in Reykjavik. There is a phrase in Icelandic, “ad ganga med bok I maganum”, everyone gives birth to a book. Literally, everyone “has a book in their stomach”.
“Does it get rather competitive?” I ask the young novelist, Kristin Eirikskdottir. “Yes. Especially as I live with my mother and partner, who are also full-time writers. But we try to publish in alternate years so we do not compete too much.”
Special saga tours – saga as in story, that is, not over-50s holidays – show us story-plaques on public buildings.
Dating from the 13th Century, Icelandic sagas tell the stories of the country’s Norse settlers, who began to arrive on the island in the late 9th Century.
Sagas are written on napkins and coffee cups. Each geyser and waterfall we visit has a tale of ancient heroes and heroines attached. Our guide stands up mid-tour to recite his own poetry – our taxi driver’s father and grandfather write biographies.
Public benches have barcodes so you listen to a story on your smartphone as you sit.
The book buying and giving culture is strong in Iceland:
About now every household gets a book catalogue through the door. They pore over it like a furniture catalogue. Everyone receives books as Christmas presents – hardback and shrink-wrapped.
So if I want to publish a book in my lifetime, should I move to Iceland? Or at least, take an extended vacation there?