Authors: Halldór Laxness

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Icelandic novelist

Author Works

Long Fiction:

Barn náttúrunnar, 1919

Undir helgahnúk, 1924

Vefarinn mikli frá Kasmír, 1927

Þu vínviður hreini, 1931, and Fuglinn í fjörunni, 1932 (Salka Valka: A Novel of Iceland, 1936)

Sjálfstætt fólk, 1934-1935 (Independent People, 1946)

Heimsljós, 1937-1940 (World Light, 1969; includes Ljós heimsins, 1937; Höll sumarlandsins, 1938; Hús skáldsins, 1939; and Fegurð himinsins, 1940)

Íslandsklukkan, 1943

Hið ljósa man, 1944

Eldur í Kaupinhafn, 1946 (collective title for previous 3 novels Íslandsklukkan)

Atómstöðin, 1948 (The Atom Station, 1961)

Gerpla, 1952 (The Happy Warriors, 1958)

Brekkukotsannáll, 1957 (The Fish Can Sing, 1966)

Paradísarheimt, 1960 (Paradise Reclaimed, 1962)

Kristnihald undir Jökli, 1968 (Christianity at Glacier, 1972)

Innansveitarkronika, 1970

GuðsgjafaÞula, 1972

Short Fiction:

Nokkrar sögur, 1923

Fótatak manna, 1933

Sjö töframenn, 1942

Sjöstafakverið, 1964


Straumrof, pr., pb. 1934

Snæfrîður Íslandssól, pr. 1950

Silfurtúnglið, pr., pb. 1954

Strompleikurinn, pr., pb. 1961

Prjónastofan Sólin, pb. 1962

Dúfnaveislan, pr., pb. 1966 (The Pigeon Banquet, 1973)


Kvæðakver, 1930


KaÞólsk viðhorf, 1925

AlÞýðubókin, 1929

Í Austurvegi, 1933

Dagleið á fjöllum, 1937

Gerska æfintýrið, 1938

Vettvangur dagsins, 1942

Sjálfsagðir hlutir, 1946

Reisubókarkorn, 1950

Heiman ek fór, 1952

Dagur í senn, 1955

Gjörningabók, 1959

Skáldatími, 1963

Upphaf mannuúðarstefnu, 1965

Íslendingaspjall, 1967

Vínlandspúnktar, 1969

Í túninu heima, 1975

Úngur eg var, 1976

Sjömeistarasagan, 1978

Grikklandsárinu, 1980

Af menníngarástandi, 1986

Sagan af brauðinu dýra, 1987 (The Bread of Life, 1987)

Dagar hjá múnkum, 1987


Vopnin kvödd, 1941 (of Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms)

Birtíngur, 1945 (of Voltaire’s Candide)

Veisla í farángrinum, 1966 (of Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast)

Edited Texts:

Laxdæla saga, 1941

Hrafnkels saga Freysgoða, 1942

Brennunjáls saga, 1945

Grettissaga, 1946


The foremost literary figure of modern Iceland, Halldór Laxness (LAHKS-nehs) broke with the cultural tradition of the island, both in philosophy and style. Although his early novels imitate the old Norse epics in scope, his method and manner were quite different. He blends lyricism with realism and often satirized the society he depicted. His political radicalism made him critical of existing institutions and of the people who allowed them to exist; his search was directed toward urban values that could replace the old agrarian ways of life.{$I[AN]9810000148}{$I[A]Laxness, Halldór}{$S[A]Gu{eth}jónsson, Halldór Kiljan[Gudjónsson, Halldór Kiljan];Laxness, Halldór}{$I[geo]ICELAND;Laxness, Halldór}{$I[tim]1902;Laxness, Halldór}

Halldór Laxness

(© The Nobel Foundation)

He was born Halldór Kiljan Guðjónsson in Reykjavík on April 23, 1902, but spent his boyhood at Laxness, a farm to which his family moved when he was three years old and from which he took his pen name. Prosperous farmers, his parents sent him to school in Reykjavík, but he remained there only one year; the chief event of his schooldays was his introduction to a group of student poets and the literary circles of the capital. In 1919, following his father’s death, he began the series of wanderings that marked his life. Most of the tales in his first book of short stories were written as he moved from one Scandinavian country to another. In 1921-1922 he was in Germany. Denied entry to the United States in 1922, he returned to Europe and spent a year in a monastery in Luxembourg. There he became a convert to Catholicism in 1923 and wrote Undir helgahnúk (under the holy mountain), a novel reflecting his religious experience. After a pilgrimage to Lourdes and a short stay in an English monastery he returned to Iceland in 1924. In Italy, in 1925, he wrote Vefarinn mikli frá Kasmír (the great weaver from Kashmir), which caused something of a sensation when it appeared in Iceland in 1927. Laxness spent the years from 1927 to 1930 in Canada and the United States; criticized for his activities in the leftist press, he returned to Iceland under threat of deportation in 1930.

Laxness achieved international fame when Gunnar Gunnarsson translated the two parts of Salka Valka into Danish in 1934. This novel, an overnight success in Copenhagen, was also translated for publication in England and the United States. Equally well received was Independent People, which dealt with the life of the Icelandic farmer very much as Salka Valka had presented life in an Icelandic fishing village. This work was followed by the long tetralogy translated as World Light. A later trilogy, Íslandsklukkan, deals with Icelandic life in the eighteenth century. The Atom Station is a political satire, The Happy Warriors a literary satire on the themes and style of the old sagas; both were subjects of controversy in the writer’s homeland because of their satire and deconstruction of the Icelandic heroic spirit.

Laxness found a greater capacity for compassion in his later novels. The Fish Can Sing re-creates life in Reykjavík at the beginning of the twentieth century, and Paradise Reclaimed depicts the life of a Mormon convert while lamenting the Icelanders’ waning fervor for national traditions. In his later work Laxness introduced a strong autobiographical strain into his fiction. A writer of varied talents, he also wrote essays, travel books, and poetry, and he had considerable success as a dramatist. Laxness’s later travels included trips to Russia and the United States. He was awarded the Stalin Prize in 1943, the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1955, and the Sonning Prize in 1969.

BibliographyEinarsson, Stefán. A History of Icelandic Literature. New York: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1957. This work includes a brief but helpful summary of Laxness’ life and the significance of some of his literary works within a historical perspective.Einarsson, Stefán. History of Icelandic Prose Writers: 1800-1940. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1948. The life and writings of Laxness are discussed at some length in this work. The biographical information is interesting and informative, and the analysis of Laxness’ literary development is insightful and succinct.Fadiman, James. “Past Present.” The Nation, May 28, 1990. Examines how Laxness depicts the rugged people living in the harshness of Iceland’s terrain.Hallberg, Peter. Halldór Laxness. Translated by Rory McTurk. Boston: Twayne, 1971. An excellent biographical and critical analysis of Laxness’s writings.Hallmundsson, Hallberg. “Halldór Laxness and the Sagas of Modern Iceland.” The Georgia Review 49 (Spring, 1995). Explains the enduring importance of Laxness’s work.Leithauser, Brad. “On Independent People by Halldór Laxness.” The New York Review of Books, May 11, 1995. Argues that Laxness produced the finest novel of the twentieth century.Magnusson, Magnus. “Seeing the Truth.” New Statesman 13, no. 637 (December 25, 2000-January 1, 2001): 91-92. Magnusson reflects on the reception in the United States of Laxness and his work, noting his early popularity. While concentrating on Laxness’s fiction, he sheds light on the writer’s character.Magnússon, Sigurður A. “Halldór Kiljan Laxness, Iceland’s First Nobel Prize Winner.” American-Scandinavian Review 44 (1956). Valuable.Magnússon, Sigurður A. “Postwar Literature in Iceland.” World Literature Today 56 (Winter, 1982). Describes the remarkable literary accomplishment in the variety of Laxness novels.Magnússon, Sigurður A. “The World of Halldór Laxness.” World Literature Today 66 (Summer, 1992). Describes the Icelandic people as portrayed in literature and compares Laxness’s treatment.
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