Printed Tongues: On Running a Bilingual Print Publication in Remote, Northern Iceland
by KT Browne, Editor of ICEVIEW magazine
Whoever said that print was dead was so, so wrong. I remember hearing this somewhere, sometime ago and thinking my god – how could it be? To say that I was discouraged when I heard this would be an understatement; I was crushed. I knew then that I wanted to work in publishing, but I wasn’t quite sure how, and I definitely didn’t know how I’d be able to do so if print, as someone somewhere claimed, was dead.
Or perhaps “dead” wasn’t exactly the term that was used. It might have been more like “on the way out” or “digitized.” Whatever the case, it was enough to drive me forward because, well, what else is the fear of failure supposed to do?
ICEVIEW Magazine is a proud print publication of creative writing and visual art based out of northern Iceland. It began in 2015 and has been published annually since then. Our goal has been twofold: to bridge the communication gap between locals and visitors of Iceland, and to examine artmaking and creativity in the context of travel. The former, as it turns out, quickly became the framework through which each volume developed, and we learned that cultivating the cultural importance of language—especially smaller ones like Icelandic—is as crucial as publishing the work itself. Each volume of ICEVIEW is published in both English and Icelandic, and this bilingual platform has allowed its audience to expand exponentially.
Of course, being based in a non-English-speaking country and publishing half in English does pose its challenges. We are always faced with the question of who we’d like our audience to be and the possibility that we might be, on some level, “disregarding” the Icelandic tongue by not publishing solely in Icelandic. But to that I say Nei! Most Icelanders know that their rapidly growing and diversifying society is a huge asset, and that part of this growth involves the acceptance of multiple languages as part of the fabric of society. Yet all that being said, having all our English content translated into Icelandic and vice versa is something we’re proud of and one of the cornerstones of our mission. To be able to give a short story or a poem another life by bringing it into another language is a unique opportunity. Thankfully, ICEVIEW’s bilingualism has only been met with positive feedback in Iceland. Here, in a country where literature is so historically revered, everyone seems really thrilled that Icelandic is being preserved and creative writing is being presented to a wider, English-speaking audience.
Beyond language, community-building is an extremely important part of what we do, but being based where we are presents another set of challenges altogether. For those who have not been to the north of Iceland, I will do you a favor and summarize it for you—it’s remote! Towns and villages are extremely small and family-oriented, which makes building an urban-style community of like-minded people a bit more difficult, especially when language barriers come into play. For this reason, building a digital, international community has been crucial for ICEVIEW’s success, and is, I would imagine, crucial for any independent magazine. It is, of course, also incredibly lovely to discover similar literary publications around the world to connect with—like SAND.
Still, fostering our local community is essential, too. We would not be able to function, for instance, without the generous support of a local cultural organization in Northwest Iceland that invests in small-scale arts and culture initiatives and cultivates the creative life of the region. We are long-time collaborators with a local artist residency, NES, whose team was crucial to getting the ball rolling on our outreach. We also have a good relationship with Iceland’s bookstore chain, Penninn Eymundsson, who sells our issues around the country much to our unending delight.
So from where I’m standing, print isn’t dead. Far from it. It is alive and thriving and so long as I continue to receive emails from the odd traveler passing through Keflavík Airport—I happened upon the latest issue of ICEVIEW on my stopover to Paris, or Brussels, or Malta and just wanted to reach out—I will rest easy and dream of freshly printed paper slipping between the fingers of someone somewhere across an ocean.