For yet another year, Iceland is on track to cement its reputation for being the most literary society in Scandinavia’s already hugely literate constellation of nations and peoples, with Jólabókaflóð. That, when you’ve finished trying to wrap your tongue, or even your eyes, around it, is Iceland’s annual “Christmas book flood,” when Icelandic publishers release a tsunami of new publications onto the local market in time for Christmas.
This can make for what sounds like the perfect Christmas for book lovers and writers elsewhere. According to one source, “the book is still the most popular Christmas present in Iceland,” and Publishing Perspectives speaks of some 800 titles being released for 2014’s Jólabókaflóð, with the country’s President in attendance at some book launches. The annual publication of the bókatíðindi, “a catalogue that lists all of the books available for purchase in Iceland during the Christmas,” is a key event of the Festive Season.
Iceland’s capital Reykjavik is the fifth city worldwide to be awarded the title of UNESCO City of Literature, and the first non-English-speaking one. And although some tributaries of the flood may be trickles rather torrents by global standards – according to UNESCO, “the average print run of fiction is 1.000 copies, which would for example equal a million copies in the USA” – the small country’s population are obviously doing their best to live up to this reputation. Even if they may be too busy reading after opening the presents to indulge in carols, kissing under the mistletoe, and the other noisier entertainments familiar elsewhere.
Happy Jólabókaflóð, everyone.