Queer Situations: New queer literary festival takes flight

The first ever queer literary festival in Iceland will take place in Reykjavík and Kópavogur in August.

The festival is the brain child of Halla Þórlaug Óskarsdóttir and Eva Rún Snorradóttir, who are both acclaimed poets and playwrights. They felt that this kind of festival was missing on the Icelandic literary scene and instead of waiting for someone else to make this kind of event a reality, they decided to do it themselves. „It’s a typical case of the old saying: If you want something to be done you must do it yourself,“ they say. GayIceland got in touch with Halla and Eva and asked them to tell our readers all about the festival.

Halla Þórlaug Óskarsdóttir and Eva Rún Snorradóttir, who are both acclaimed poets and playwrights, are behind the new the queer literary festival Queer Situations.

Eva: “The festival Queer situations will take place in Reykjavík and Kópavogur from the 22nd to the 24th of August this year. It’s a queer literary festival in more than one sense; we are focusing on authors who are connected to or write about queer subjects, but we are also especially looking to literature which breaks up the form a little. Not necessarily the “traditional” novel, so to speak.

Halla: “The biggest star this year is without a doubt the American author Maggie Nelson. We are both great fans of her writing, her best known works being the autofiction The Argonauts and Bluets, which is a book of poems that has now been turned into a play which is being shown at The Royal Court Theatre in London as we speak. She writes some kind of mixture of autofiction and theory, so called autotheory. She gets into very personal matters but does it with the methods of a researcher. Her newest book is Like Love which was published this April and is a collection of essays.

Her partner, Harry Dodge, is also coming. He actually wrote one chapter in The Argonauts, but in the book Nelson is reflecting on their life while she is pregnant and he is starting hormone therapy.

It’s a queer literary festival in more than one sense; we are focusing on authors who are connected to or write about queer subjects, but we are also especially looking to literature which breaks up the form a little.

Harry is a visual artist and actually showed his work here last summer as part of a collective show at Kling & Bang. His book, My Meteorite, was published in 2020 and he will read from that book and discuss it at the festival.

Ia Genberg will grace the festival with her presence, but she is nominated for the Booker Prize this year for her book The Details, which Þórdís Gísladóttir translated into Icelandic (the Icelandic book cover pictured here).

Eva: “The Swedish author Ia Genberg will also grace the festival with her presence, but she is nominated for the Booker Prize this year for her book The Details, which Þórdís Gísladóttir translated into Icelandic and Benedikt Publishing House published last year.

We are still waiting for answers from a few foreign authors, but the festival will start with a pre party, setting the tone with Icelandic authors on Wednesday the 21st of August.“

GayIceland: How did you come up with the idea of starting a festival like this?

Halla: “The idea came to us little by little. You might say this is a classic case of the old saying: “If you want something to be done, do it yourself.” We love going to literary events and we felt that this was missing on the Icelandic literary scene, a chain of events focusing on a special genre of literature: Queer literature – queer in form and subject matter.”

Eva: “Then we went on holiday together and as sometimes happens when you’re supposed to be relaxing, the idea became more pressing. So on this supposedly relaxing holiday we took a small pause and applied for a grant from the council of Kópavogur to make the festival happen. And so, when the grant was in the bag, the wheels started turning and we made sure that this idea would become reality.”

Upper row, from the left: Ia Genberg and Kristín Ómarsóttir. Lower row from the left: Maggie Nelson and Harry Dodge.

GayIceland: Is queer literature such a prominent factor in Icelandic literature that there are grounds for this kind of festival?

Eva: “In our opinion it only needs one queer book to make it relevant. And actually you only need a few readers of queer literature to make grounds for a festival like this.

Argonauts by Maggie Nelson, who will be taking part in the festival.

So you could say that there are grounds for this festival everywhere. And here in Iceland we feel that it is urgent to reflect the blooming scene here. This year we know of at least five queer books which will be published this summer or autumn. And I’m sure there are more.”

Halla: “On the other hand we think that the festival is really an answer to a certain gap in the presentation of literature here. We live on an island, in a small community where we feel that the discussion about literature tends to become a bit monotone.

That’s why we feel it’s of great importance that the festival is international and the main reason for it is really to invite foreign voices to the country – get a bit of fresh winds.

We feel it’s of great importance that the festival is international and the main reason for it is really to invite foreign voices to the country – get a bit of fresh winds.

The festival is meant to be a spark to light up the Icelandic literary discussion, that’s why we emphasize books that are queer in more that one sense – books that push the boundaries of form, not only regarding subject matter.”

Harry Dodge is coming to take part in the festival. His book, My Meteorite, was published in 2020 and he will read from that book and discuss it at the festival.

Eva: “Speaking of queer matters in literature we have seen a certain tendency to speak about them on gossipy notes; what is true and what not, who might this or that person in the book represent in reality. This is also true for many female authors who write in the first person. The festival is an attempt to address that by shining the spotlight on these books, so queerness becomes the norm and the literary discussion is the focus.”

Halla: “Apart from that it is of course important to mention that queer matters are facing a huge backlash in our time, both abroad and here in Iceland. Queer voices and perspectives need their own platform to sound in harmony and to not be marginalized in the big picture.”

More info on Queer situations here.

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