Icelandic saga-writing began with stories of the nation´s origins, Book of the Icelanders and the Book of Settlements around AD 1100. In the 12th century Icelanders also began to write sagas of kings which reached its Zenith in the 13th century with Snorri Sturluson´s Heimskringla (Orb of the World) a history of the kings of Norway. This was followed by the Sagas of the Icelanders or family sagas. These are the most remarkable form of the old Icelandic literature, taking place in the period 930 – 1030, recounting in highly realistic terms tales of conflicts and peace agreements, love and thwarted ambition. Written in prose form the sagas employ a narrative technique reminiscent of the modern novel. Events are staged, characters speak in direct speach and their thoughts are implied by their external behaviour, rarely be direct description. Icelanders also wrote sagas of other kinds and poetry was also very important part of the early literature, both as part of the sagas and as independent works.
The sagas have been translated into most major languages and are still read and studied all over the world and are considered a very important contribution to world literature.
Literature is still a very important part of the Icelandic culture and many Icelandic writers have acquired recent international recognition, the most notable Halldor Laxness, who was awarded the Nobel Price in literature 1955.
The contemporary culture of Iceland is rich and varied as well as being known for its literary heritage. Other Icelandic traditional arts include weaving, silver crafting, and wood carving. The Reykjavik area has several professional theatres, a symphony orchestra, an opera, and a large amount of art galleries, bookstores, cinemas, and museums. There are also four active folk dance ensemble in Iceland. Iceland’s literacy rate is among the highest in the world, and a love of literature, art, chess, and other intellectual pursuits is widespread.
Icelandic music is related to Nordic music forms, and includes vibrant folk and pop traditions, including medieval music group Voces Thules. The only folk band whose recordings are available abroad is Islandica. Iceland is also the home of the reasonably successful 80s and 90s band The Sugarcubes from which very successful singer Björk hailed from. Also another popular musical group from Iceland is Sigur Rós.