Island Hoch in Berlin
April 24 2002
The opening of Island Hoch in Berlin 23rd April 2002
Ladies and Gentlemen:
It is a special pleasure for me to be able to share this time with you here. These are worthwhile and noble occasions, which give us ample reason for celebrations and festivities. At the moment Iceland and Germany are celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of their diplomatic relations. This has been an extremely important relationship for the Icelanders and countless events in modern history show that Iceland has had a loyal friend in Germany, despite the great difference in our countries' sizes and therefore in our interests. The Chancellor of Germany and the government that he leads have always shown a deep understanding of Iceland's special position, since he is very familiar with Iceland past and the present, its history and its viewpoints. A variety of festivities are taking place in Germany at the moment, connected with Icelandic arts and culture, not least the literary arts. The guiding presence behind the entire promotion of that particular branch of the arts is Halldór Laxness, who would have been 100 years old today. Laxness was at once the most important and the most popular writer in Iceland during the 20th century, a man who changed the destiny of Icelandic literature, a literary giant whom we can only measure against the unknown scribes who wrote down the Sagas in times of old, the Sagas that described ancient events in ancient language and have lost none of their appeal even though centuries have passed since the scribes put the final strokes of their pens to their manuscripts. We are delighted that we have been able to share Halldór Laxness. His works have been translated into a great many languages and people are still at work on this task. We are not least proud and thankful towards the Germans, who have shown our Nobel laureate such goodwill, interest, admiration and loyalty. Gifted translators and bold publishers in this country deserve our profound thanks. They are still at work. And they do not confine themselves to dealing with literary giants. They are favourably disposed towards hopeful Icelandic authors and even the most unlikely writers are allowed to join that motley crew, for which I am personally grateful.
A few years ago Iceland took part in the World Expo in Hanover. Our friend the Chancellor of Germany paid particular respect to our exhibit there. And I hope it pleased him to know that the Icelandic stand was the second best attended at the expo, surpassed only by the German stand. I do not expect the festivities that are beginning now to achieve promotion on such a scale, although it undeniably makes a difference that the Chancellor will also be involved there and lend us his assistance. What these festivities do underline and reiterate is that we Icelanders look very much towards this great cultural nation, Germany, from which we have learnt so much, when it comes to promoting the products of our own culture.
I offer everyone involved in these events my most heartfelt thanks, and not least the many of you here today who never tire of helping the Icelandic cultural scene and have boosted cooperation between Germany and Iceland in this field in recent years.