Seeing things literally: Filming of TV shows may help boost first-ever book festival in Longyearbyen


Previous versions of this story have not had a happy ending.

A film festival flopped massively. A rock festival flamed out before the second act. So what makes organizers think an early fall festival focusing on books can succeed?

Ironically, at least part of the answer to the inaugural Longyearbyen Literarature Festival, which begins on Monday, might be the power of television.


The music/poetry group Buicken performs at the cultural center in Lillestrøm. The group is scheduled to perform at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Kulturhuset as part of the Longyearbyen Literature Festival. Screenshot image from YouTube video by Nicke Lilltroll.

Early September through the end of October is one of the slower tourism periods in Svalbard. But Longyearbyen will be in the national spotlight in September with crews from NRK and the Swedish network SVT filming literary events that will be broacast later during the month.

“We decided to do the literature festival because we could build it on that,” said Elin Anita Olsrud, head librarian at Longyearbyen Library. “It’s an exciting opportunity and it makes things much less expensive.”

Seven authors – four brought by NRK and three by festival organizers – will be featured during the five-day event. Four are Norwegian authors, including Øystein Wiik (whose works include the thriller “Dødsrytteren” about North Korea invading Svalbard) and Jørn Lier Horst  (a prolific critic and children’s writer).

Foreign authors include Israel’s David Grossman (winner of last year’s Man Booker International prize for “A Horse Walks Into a Bar” about  standup comedian’s public breakdown), the United States’ Annie Proulx (“Brokeback Mountain and the Pulitzer-winning “The Shipping News”) and the United Kingdom’s Emily Barr (whose children’s works include the Svalbard-themed “The One Memory of Flora Banks”).

All of the authors are scheduled to make brief presentations during the official opening ceremony at 6:30 p.m. Monday at Longyearbyen Library. They are also scheduled to particpate in a daylong cruise to Pyramiden starting at 9 a.m. Tuesday, which will be one of the events filmed by NRK and SVT.

Evening “sofa discussions” are scheduled with individual authors Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. NRK will also record program material at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Radisson Polar Blu Hotel.

Longyearbyen Literature Festival Schedule

Sept. 4

10 a.m.-noon: Presentation for youths by Jørn Lier Horst. Longyearbyen Library.

6:30 p.m.: Official opening reception, w/ presentations by all festival authors and music by Liv Mari Schei. Longyearbyen Library.

Sept. 5

9 a.m.: Literature cruise to Pyramiden, featuring all festival authors. NRK and Swedish broadcasters will show films as well as record material for new literature-related programs.

9 p.m.: Interview of Norwegian crime author Jørn Lier Horst by head librarian Elin Anita Olsrud. Karlsberger Pub.

Sept. 6

Noon: Lunch discussion with U.K. children’s author Emily Barr. Longyearbyen Library.

5:30 p.m.: NRK recording of “Brenner og Bøkene.” Radisson.

7:30 p.m. Concert by Norwegian rock/blues/folk group Buicken.  Kulturhuset.

9:30 p.m.: Interview of author Anne B. Ragde by Hans Olav Brenner. Karlsberger Pub.

Sept. 7

6 p.m.: Interviews about Svalbard-themed books written by Norwegian thriller author Øystein Wiik by Kristin Mork and Norwegian author Emily Barr by Jessika Gedin. Rabalder Café and Bakery.

9 p.m.: Interviews of “Brokeback Mountain” author Annie Proloux and “Bienes Historie” author Maja Lunde, both by Siss Vik. Karlsberger Pub.

Sept. 8

7 p.m.: Open evening for Longyearbyen authors. Longyearbyen Library.