Laxness-sýning í Varsjá - enska

Laxness - sýning
Varsjá 8. febrúar 1999

Laxness - sýning
It is a pleasure to be here today to strengthen the cultural and political ties between Iceland and Poland. Our relations have always been friendly and I look forward to see them grow further still.

The Polish nation is highly regarded for her cultural creativity and intellectual impact. In our time this beneficial impact has been best pronounced by Pope John Paul II who has played an enormous role in the world arena. His spiritual guidance has put a lasting mark on both European and world history. Without him one could doubt that we would have witnessed the dramatic downfall of communism in our times.

In the minds of Europeans Poland plays an unique role. For centuries the Polish nation has had to shoulder heavy burdens due to her geographical, political and cultural location. You have, however, survived and kept your political and cultural identity and integrity intact. For this reason we can in a few weeks time welcome you as our allies within NATO.

I am convinced that your membership of the Alliance will not only increase your own security but also open new gates for the Alliance itself and deepen the cooperation across the Atlantic. Iceland, being a founding member of NATO, is a stepping stone between Europe and North America in the North Atlantic.

The relations between Poland and Iceland are very good and have prospered in many fields. This morning I discussed with your Minister of Education the possibility of cooperation between our ministries.

Polish musicians have been and still are prominent in Iceland. For many years Mr. Bodan Wodizko was the principal conductor of our Symphony Orchestra, and Polish players and music teachers are active in all parts of Iceland.

In sports Polish coachers and trainers are well known in Iceland.

Polish Carmelite nuns are living in Iceland and increase the blessing of our nation.

In recent years many Poles have come to Iceland to work for a shorter or longer period in other fields.

Here in Warsaw there is the Polish Icelandic Friendship Association which has for 40 years been active in promoting Iceland in Poland. For a small nation it is invaluable to enjoy the support of such good friends.

Today we come together here in the Literary Museum for the world premiére of the Halldór Laxness Literary Exhibition. Just over two years ago professor Lech Sokól, who was then the Polish Ambassador to Iceland, came to my office and expressed the idea of an exhibition concerning Halldór Laxness here in this museum.

Although Halldór Laxness did receive the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1955 and is one of the most famous Icelanders there had never been designed nor put together a special exhibiton concerning him and his works.

Now this has been accomplished in cooperation of the Ministry of Culture, the National Library of Iceland, the Icelandic publishers of Halldór Laxness Vaka-Helgafell and the Fund for promoting Icelandic literature abroad.

Today there is exactly one year since Halldór Laxness passed away on the 8th of February 1998. By opening this exhibition at this moment we are honouring his memory and it gives us coming from Iceland a special pleasure that this is done in a literary museum dedicated to a great Polish poet, Adam Mickiewicz. Many of Halldór Laxness´s works have been translated into Polish and we know that he is highly regarded by many people here in Poland.

Works by Halldór Laxness have appeared in more than 500 publications in 43 languages. He has convinced modern Icelanders that we can now as over 800 years ago write texts in Icelandic, only spoken by some 280 thousand people, which appeal to those speaking and writing in other languages.

When Halldór Laxness received the Nobel Prize he said that for an Icelandic writer fame was practically valueless if he forgot his origin in the depths of his nation. For Icelanders literature is not only an artistic expression but also the basic condition for our existence as an independent nation. Therefore one might look at this exhibition as an expression of our role in modern literature based on a long tradition.

Ladies and gentlemen

As a sign of gratitude to the Literary Museum for its cooperation by hosting this exhibition and as recognition of its important contribution to Polish and European culture I would like to ask the Director of the museum to accept on its behalf a new and comprehensive translation into English of The Sagas of Icelanders.

I declare the Halldór Laxness Literary Exhibition open.