Lillehammer, Norway

Lillehammer became the 23rd UNESCO City of Literature in October 2017, on the same day as Bucheon (South Korea), Durban (South Africa), Milan (Italy), Utrecht (Netherlands), Manchester (UK), Québec City (Canada) and Seattle (USA) joined the existing 20 Cities of Literature in the Creative Cities Network.

Lillehammer is the seat of Oppland Country in Norway, with a population of 27,000. It quickly became a hub for painters and writers in the 19th century – among them Nobel laureates in Literature, Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson and Sigrid Undset.

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Lillehammer is a proud ICORN International City of Refuge, and is home to the Norwegian Festival of Literature, the largest of its kind in the Nordic Region. The Nansen Humanistic Academy, founded on the Scandinavian Folk High School tradition, offers classes in philosophy, cultural history and creative writing, and Lilliehammer Museum is tasked with the upkeep of the homes and legacies of Lillehammer’s two Nobel Laureates in literature.

It was Haakon Haakonarson’s Saga in 1260 that pulled Lillehammer into world literature, but after 1827, the city soon became a thriving hub for artists and writers of all backgrounds and pursuits. In 1929, The Nansen Humanistic Academy was established, answering to the threat posed by fascist and anti-democratic sentiments on the continent.

The Norwegian Festival of Literature, the largest of its kind in the Nordic region and attracting some 25,000 visitors, takes place in Lillehammer each spring. In 2017, it offered more than 200 events, including workshops, debates, readings, panel discussions, in addition to a wide range of professional seminars, including The Norwegian Critics’ Association’s Seminar, The International Publishers’ Seminar, The NORLA Translators’ Seminar, The Literary Debutantes’ Seminar, and more.

In addition to the Festival, the city also hosts the annual Norwegian Amateur Theatre Festival, Aulestad Days – a festival honouring one of Lillehammer’s two Nobel Laureates in Literature, Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson – as well as BASTARD, a festival celebrating art books and micro-publishing.