National Geographic : 1951 Nov
606 © Fotograf Ellen Dahlberg, Pix, Inc. Students Grow Vegetables and Flowers in Soil Heated by Volcanic Springs Flower-loving Icelanders devote acres of greenhouse space to blossoming plants. Last year, with the help of Marshall Plan machinery, they increased cultivated land by 4,500 acres. Barley, rye, and wheat have been grown experimentally with some success. These farmerettes work a school garden in Laugarvatn. It lights up the curving walls of cerulean blue "like the Icelandic sky in summer." The university operates on very democratic lines, with a new chancellor chosen every three years by the faculty from among themselves. Law professor Olaf Larusson, head when I was there, is very proud of the extensive courses offered in theology, philosophy, medi cine, and law. The excellent library houses the Benedikt Thorarinsson collection of books - largest in the country. There is no illiteracy in Iceland. In the past the village parson could refuse to confirm or marry anyone who could not read and write! Books Big Item in Budget Today, all children between the ages of 7 and 15 in Iceland receive free instruction. Mobile schools travel through the sparsely settled farm areas. They prepare potential subscribers for the tremendous amount of read ing material published in Iceland-more new books per capita than any other country in the world. In Reykjavik five daily newspapers and many weeklies print enough copies to supply one for every man, woman, and child in the city. The Government's publishing society supplies books at cost price. At that, each Icelander spends approxi- mately $50 a year for books in his native language. The ones I saw on local shelves included Sagan af Huckleberry Finn, Robin son Kruso, Hans og Greta, and Mys og Menn, by Steinbeck. In addition to books published in Icelandic, one of which, Independent People, by Halldor Laxness, was a Book-of-the-Month-Club selec tion, many foreign books are imported. The parlors of the farmsteads often display, in addition to the Bible bound in sharkskin and silver, a well-used selection of world literature in the original languages. The National Library bulges with some 170,000 printed books and about 10,000 manuscripts. It has a fine collection of books on chess, given by the late Professor Daniel Willard Fiske of Cornell, author of Chess in Iceland. The nationwide interest in the game was evident. While we were there two players who had come all the way from New Zealand were giving exhibitions. During their six week stay they had audiences of four hun dred and more every night. Four other Reykjavik libraries, besides the National, set the pattern for four well-stocked regional libraries, one for every quarter of the island, as well as district and parish cir culating centers. And the books circulate, too, summer and winter.