15. April 2023

Not Being Heard Is No Reason for Silence: Slovak and Foreign-born Icelandic Writers in Reykjavík

On 21 April the Epic Residencies project together with the Gunnar Gunnarsson Institute and the Writers’ Union of Iceland organize the literary event Not Being Heard Is No Reason for Silence, for the title of which they borrowed a quote from Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables. Writers from Slovakia will share their works alongside foreign-born Icelandic writers who have made a mark on Iceland’s literary scene in recent years. During the discussion, we’ll delve into the status of literature in Slovakia and Central Europe and compare it to that of Iceland. The discussion will explore the role of authors during difficult times and the significance of literature for minority groups. The event will also feature a discussion about the experiences of being a foreign-born writer in Iceland. Organized by the Gunnar Gunnarsson Institute and the Writers’ Union of Iceland, this off-venue event is part of the Reykjavík International Literary Festival and the Epic Residencies project, which promotes cultural collaboration between Iceland, Slovakia, and Norway.

The event takes place in the cultural space of café Iðnó in Reykjavík at 5PM. Three Slovak authors will participate: Dominika Moravčíková, Juliana Sokolová and Jakub Juhás. Writers from Slovakia will share their work alongside foreign-born writers who have made a mark on Iceland’s literary scene in recent years. The excerpts of Slovak authors were translated into English by John Minahane and the translation was supported by the Slovak Literary Centre (SLC).

The event will feature the following foreign-born Icelandic writers: Jakub Stachowiak, Mao Alheimsdóttir and Natasha S.. The moderator of the presentation will be Ewa Marcinek, a Polish author living in Iceland.

Participating authors from Slovakia:

( Dominika Moravčíková )

Dominika Moravčíková is a fiction writer and poet based in Košice, Slovakia. One of the most exciting young voices in contemporary Slovak literature, she debuted in 2020 with the poetry collection Deti Hamelnu (The Children of Hameln). The book received widespread critical acclaim across Slovakia and the Czech Republic and was nominated for Slovakia’s national prize for best poetry book, Zlatá vlna, in 2021. In 2022 she published her second book, a collection of short stories titled Dom pre Jeleňa (A House for the Deer, KK Bagala publishing house). The book is currently shortlisted for this year’s Anasoft Litera Prize, Slovakia’s most important literary award. The stories, marked by Moravčíková’s imaginative use of language and world-building through the development of fictional rural mythologies, has also received much attention since its publication. In 2019 she became the first writer to win both the country’s short story prize Poviedka and the poetry prize Básne SK-CZ in the same year. She regularly publishes essays with the leading Slovak left-wing cultural and political monthly Kapitál. In her academic work as a postgraduate researcher she conducts ethnographic research on the music education of Roma children in Slovakia. Her research also translates into her creative work, where she explores themes of exclusion, fate, knowledge, and memory. She is involved in the cultural management of two contemporary art galleries in Košice and collaborates with the Košice Literary Residencies programme.

( Jakub Juhás )

Jakub Juhás is a fiction writer and sound curator at LOM, a cultural space in Bratislava that focuses on contemporary forms of sound art and acoustic ecology. In 2016 he debuted with the book Novoročný výstup na Jaseninu (The New Year’s Ascent to Jasenina), which was shortlisted for the country’s most prestigious fiction prize, the Anasoft Litera Prize and won the Ján Johanides Prize for Young Authors. His second book, PS, was published in 2022 by the Prague-based publishing studio Rubato and is currently shortlisted for this year’s Anasoft Litera Prize. The formally inventive book centers around a fictional account of the final days of the legendary 19th century Hungarian poet Petöfi Sándor, who famously disappeared in 1849. In the book we find him holed up in the small town of Lučenec (in today’s Hungarian-speaking south of Slovakia), tortured by the screeching sounds of the bronze cockerel atop the local church. The book, whose structure melds passages of fictional narrative with essayistic reflections and sensorily dense descriptions of Central European geography, landscapes and Hungarian-Slovak personal relations and interactions, draws heavily on Juhás’s obsession with sounds and their communication in literary forms. Juhás regularly publishes texts on sound art and experimental music in various international cultural and music magazines. He runs the experimental music label mappa editions. The label’s activities also include curating concerts, installations, residencies and workshops.

( Juliana Sokolová )

Juliana Sokolová is a poet and essayist. Her first book of poems My house will have a roof, published bilingually in English and Slovak by the Prague-based publishing house Fra in 2013, explores the relationship between grief and language. Her second book of poems, Domáce práce (On Housework), will be published in autumn/winter 2023 in Slovak by Literárna bašta. The book explores what it is we touch while we do housework: a darkness that is prehistoric and waits. Characterised as “a poet’s poet” by the Slovak Literary Review, she writes condensed, frequently minimalist poems with an acute attention to language. She frequently reflects on language from her position of writer not writing in her mother’s tongue, Hungarian. Her poems have featured on the radio in Sweden and Norway. She publishes essays in journals, artist monographs and exhibition catalogues internationally. Juliana Sokolová is a postgraduate researcher in architectural theory at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague. She cooperates with the art-house cinema Kino Úsmev in Košice, where she curates their literary programme, and is a co-founder of the Košice Literary Residencies programme.

Participating authors from Iceland:

( Jakub Stachowiak )

Jakub Stachowiak was born in Poland in 1991 and has lived in Iceland since 2016. He is a librarian. He holds a BA in Icelandic as a second language and is now studying creative writing at the University of Iceland. He is a published poet, writing in Icelandic. For his first book of poems Næturborgir (Nocturnal Cities) published in 2021, he received a Grassroot Grant from the Icelandic Literature Center. In 2022 he also published two other books of poetry, úti bíður skáldleg veröld (outside awaits a poetic world) and flæði 3(flow 3). He has also published poems in the poetry collection Pólífónía af erlendum uppruna, which contains poems by foreign poets in Reykjavík and in various magazines, including Skandali and Tímarit Máls og Menningar. He has recently performed in a theater play Góða ferð inn í gömul sár(Safe travel into old wounds) that revolves around the HIV pandemic in Iceland in the 80s and 90s and written personal articles for a radio programme Lestin.His 4th book, Stjörnufallseyjur(Islands of a falling star) will be published in autumn by the publishing house Dimma.

( Mao Alheimsdóttir )

Mao Alheimsdóttir is Polish in origin, living in Iceland since 2006. She graduated with MA in creative writing from the University of Iceland 2020 and writes in Icelandic. She received a Grassroot Grant from the Icelandic Literature Center in 2021 for her first novel Veðurfregnir og jarðarfarir (Weather forecasts and funerals). Her writing has previously been published in Tímarit Máls og Menningar and Ljóðabréfið. She is a working artist and has been involved in various stage works. In 2021 in collaboration with Icelandic National Radio she created a miniserie of radio programme Að fjallabaki (Behind the mountains). 

( Natasha S. )

Natasha S. is a writer and translator of Icelandic literature into Russian. In 2021, she edited the book Pólífónía af erlendum uppruna, a collection of poems by immigrants in Iceland. In spring 2023, the book Writers Adrift, co-edited by Natasha, will be published by Una útgáfuhús. Natasha has also attracted attention for her articles and essays. Máltaka á stríðstímum is her first book. The work is the narrative of the person who follows the war in her homeland from a distance. The book won the Tómas Guðmundsson Literature Prize in 2022.

The EEA Grants represent the contribution of Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway towards a green, competitive and inclusive Europe. There are two overall objectives: reduction of economic and social disparities in Europe, and to strengthen bilateral relations between the donor countries and 15 EU countries in Central and Southern Europe and the Baltics. The three donor countries cooperate closely with the EU through the Agreement on the European Economic Area (EEA). The donors have provided €3.3 billion through consecutive grant schemes between 1994 and 2014. For the period 2014-2021, the EEA Grants amount to €1.55 billion.


( Ewa Marcinek )

Ewa Marcinek is a Polish author who has lived and worked in Iceland since 2013. She is one of the founding authors of Ós Pressan, a non-profit initiative and a publishing house established to bring out and promote new authors and to create an inclusive writing community in Iceland. Ewa is the co-founder of Reykjavík Ensemble, an international theatre company, where she also works as a writer and project manager. Her writing has been featured in the company’s performances, plays, and video productions as well as in Icelandic journals, and exhibited during festivals and art shows in Iceland and abroad. She is the author of  the collection of short stories and poems Polishing Iceland (Ísland pólerað) and one of the editors of the essay collection Writers Adrift, which Una útgáfuhús is publishing in spring 2023.

( Epic Residencies )

Epic Residencies were born out of a cooperation between three residency programmes: the Gunnar Gunnarson Institute in Iceland, Tou in Norway and Literary Residencies Košice in Slovakia. The aim of Epic Residencies is to bring the literary worlds of Iceland, Norway and Slovakia closer together through exchange and to offer space for concentrated work to writers and translators from Iceland, Norway and Slovakia. Epic Residencies are open to authors working in any literary genre (prose, poetry, literary essay, experimental work, script writing, etc) and to translators of literature. The project is built upon the values of intercultural exchange, gender equality, the importance of minority experiences and a diversity of voices in literature.

The cooperation between the three residency centres was made possible by financial support of the EEA grant scheme.

The priorities for this period are:

#1 Innovation, Research, Education and Competitiveness

#2 Social Inclusion, Youth Employment and Poverty Reduction

#3 Environment, Energy, Climate Change and Low Carbon Economy

#4 Culture, Civil Society, Good Governance and Fundamental Rights

#5 Justice and Home Affairs The EEA Grants are jointly financed by Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, whose contributions are based on their GDP.

Eligibility for the Grants mirror the criteria set for the EU Cohesion Fund aimed at member countries where the Gross National Income (GNI) per inhabitant is less than 90% of the EU average. All projects are co-financed by the State Budget of the Slovak Republic in the amount of 15%.

More links