Classic Author Focus: Halldór Laxness

Perhaps the selection of Halldór Laxness doesn’t quite fit in with my idea of writing about lesser-known classic authors. Certainly, Icelanders know who he is, but I’m not sure how well known he is in the rest of the world. He is Iceland’s Nobel Prize winner, having received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1955.

Halldór Laxness

Although he was born in Reykyavik, Laxness grew up on a farm. However, he left Iceland in his teens shortly before he published his first novel, to travel in Europe. There, he joined an abbey in Luxembourg and became Catholic, joining a group that wanted to convert Nordic Europe back to Catholicism. However, he moved from this religious period into one with a fascination for socialism. In the late 1920’s, he worked writing screenplays for Hollywood, but his criticisms of the United States ended with him being charged. Charges were dropped, and he returned to Iceland. There, he began a series of socialistic novels. In the late 50’s, he changed his focus from the socialist to the personal.

Laxness was the author of plays, novels, poetry, critical essays, short stories, and translations of works into Icelandic. He also edited Icelandic sagas and wrote several volumes of memoirs.

Dates: 1902-1998

Most popular works: World Light, Independent People, Salka Valka, The Fish Can Sing, Iceland’s Bell

Other works: The Bread of Life, Paradise Reclaimed, The Great Weaver from Kashmir, The Happy Warriors, Atom Station




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