Shades of grey: Dreary weather, writers with multiple genre and artistic skills mean broad narrative at Longyearbyen’s second literature festival


Erlend Loe opened the festival by discussing writing a screenplay for a satirical comedy during a late afternoon theater screening, met other writers and guests during a long evening sightseeing cruise, read some of his children’s books to two different groups of students the next morning, and wrapped things up with a robust discussion of his adult works at a pub that night.

As with the seven other authors featured at the second annual Longyearbyen Literature Festival, Loe was invited because he has a multitude of talents and organizers are making sure all of them are put to good use.

“We wanted authors who are more than authors,” said Elin Anita Olsrud, head librarian at Longyearbyen Library, who is one of the festival’s leaders and founders. “That’s why we have two concerts, because two of the authors are also musicians.”

The festival, which began Monday and continues through Friday, also features two movie screenings and a literature trivia competition in addition to book and poetry readings, interviews of visiting authors by notable locals, and an open night at the end of the festivals for local youth and adult writers to present their works.

Loe, 49, whose first novel was published in 2003 and first children’s book a year later, said he visited Longyearbyen for some readings of his work about a decade ago. He said he doesn’t appear at many literature festivals any more (“I mostly do exotic places”), but the concept and setting of the young Longyearbyen festival are appealing.

“It’s the place,” he said. “Even for Norwegians it’s very exotic. It’s very intimate, of course, very small areas where all the artists can get to know each other.”

For the authors and audience, the works presented this week will be a mix of fiction/non-fiction, youth/adult, activist/irreverent and other differing forms.

Activist works include the lone English-language visiting author, Larry Siems, a U.S. resident whose written extensively about human rights issues such as migration and torture in books and for news publications. He will be interviewed by Anders Heger at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Polfareren restaurant at Svalbard Hotell.

Also appearing is Teresa Grøtan, noted for her works about climate change, who will read from her new young-teen book “Før Oya Synker” (“Before The Islands Sink” – and one of the islands she focuses on is Svalbard) at 4:30 p.m. at the library.

On a more lyrical note, there will be three events featuring poetry readings, all notably different. Two are by Jan Erik Vold, a Stockholm resident who has written extensively for literary publications since 1965, including several biographies of well-known musicians. He has also collaborated with musicians on projects during that time, and will be featured in a jazz/poetry concert with Bjørn Alterhaug and John Pål Inderberg at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Kulturhuset. Vold will do a more traditional poetry reading Thursday at Galleri Svalbard and be interviewed Wednesday night by Terje Aunevik at Karlsberger Pub.

The other poetry reading will be eight students from Longyearbyen School who will present their works from a writing competition during the open night Friday at the library. Other writers wanting to read their works during the evening can sign up by e-mailing or via the festival’s Facebook page.



• 4:30 p.m.: Screening of “Nord,” with Erlend Loe discussing the screenwriting process. Kulturhuset.
• 6:30 p.m.-midnight. Literature cruise aboard the Langøysund featuring music and readings by festival artists. Meet in Svalbardbutikken parking lot for bus to boat.

• 9 a.m.: Erlend Loe reads to students in grades 3-5. Longyearbyen Library.
• 10:30 a.m.: Erlend Loe reads to kindergarten students. Longyearbyen Library.
• 6 p.m.: Interview of Karin Fossum by Sylvi Inez Liljegren. Stationen.
• 7:30 p.m.: Jazz and poetry by Jan Erik Vold, Bjørn Alterhaug and John Pål Inderberg. Kulturhuset.
• 9 p.m.: Interview of Erlend Loe by Endre Lund Eriksen. Karlsberger Pub.

• 10 a.m.: Endre Lund Eriksen reads to students in grades 1-2. Longyearbyen Library.
• 11:15 a.m.: Endre Lund Eriksen reads to students in grades 6-7. Longyearbyen Library.
• 5 p.m.: Screening and discussion of the 2005 comedy film “Pittbullterje.” Writer Endre Lund Eriksen discusses the process of converting a book to film. Kulturhuset.
6 p.m.: Interview of author Gerd Karin Bjørhovde by Sylvi Inez Liljegren. Polfareren.
7 p.m.: Interview of author Larry Siems by Anders Heger. Polfareren.
9 p.m.: Interview of author Jan Erik Vold by Terje Aunevik. Karlsberger Pub.

• 4:30 p.m.: Teresa Grøtan reads from her new bookl “Før Oya Synker.” Longyearbyen Library.
• 6 p.m.: Poetry reading by Jan Erik Vold. Galleri Svalbard.
• 7 p.m.: Literature quiz hosted by Kristine Sandsleth. Svalbar.
• 9 p.m.: Interview of Levi Henriksen by Leif Magne Helgesen. Karlsberger Pub.

• 10:30 a.m.: Levi Henriksen reads to youths. Longyearbyen Library.
• 6 p.m.: Open reading by local students and residents. Longyearbyen Library.
• 7:30 p.m.: Concert by Levi Henriksen and Babylon Badlands. Kulturhuset.