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Halldór Kiljan Laxness (born Halldór Guđjónsson) (April 23, 1902 - February 8, 1998) was a famous 20th century Icelandic author of such novels as Independent People, The Atom Station, Paradise Reclaimed, Iceland's Bell, The Fish Can Sing and World Light. He won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1955.


Some facts

Halldór Kiljan Laxness was the son of Sigríđur Halldórsdóttir (born 1872) and Guđjón Helgason (born 1870). He lived in Reykjavík during his early years, then moved to Laxnes in Mosfellssveit in 1905. Forty years later, he moved to Gljúfrasteinn, Mosfellsveit.

He soon started to read books and write stories, and when he was 14 years old, his first article was published in Morgunblađiđ under the name H.G.. Not much later he published an article (about an old clock) under his name in the same paper.

During his career he wrote 51 novels, poetry, many newspaper articles, plays, travelogues, short stories and more.

He was married and had four children. Laxness died at the age of 95.

In 2003 Hannes Hólmsteinn Gissurarson published Memoir of Laxness, part one of three. The book was much criticised, and its future as an accepted reference is uncertain. Still, the book must be taken into account when considering Laxness's life.


In the end of 1922, Laxness joined an abbey in Clervaux, Luxembourg. The monks of the abbey, named Abbaye St. Maurice et St. Maur, followed the rules of Saint Benedict from Nursia. Laxness was baptised and confirmed in Catholicism early in 1923. It was at that occasion he adopted the family name Laxness and added Kiljan after his first name, Halldór. Killian was an Irish martyr and saint. (N.B. : Iceland is one of the few countries in the world which retains the "patronymic" tradition under which people do not usually bear "family surnames" but instead are called "X son of Y" or "X daughter of Y". Hence his original name, Halldór Guđjónsson, meant "Halldór son of Guđjón" just as his own parents' names meant, respectively, "Sigríđur daugher of Halldór" and "Guđjón son of Helga".)

Inside the walls of the abbey, he practised self-study, read books, studied French, Latin, theology and philosophy. It was also there that the story Undir Helgahnjúk, which was published in 1924, was written. Laxness published the book under his new name; Halldór Kiljan Laxness.

Inside the abbey Laxness became devout and even orthodox. Soon after his baptism, he even became a member of a group which prayed for reversion of the Nordic countries back to Catholicism.

Laxness wrote of his Catholicism in the book Vefarinn mikli frá Kasmír, published in 1927.

Socialism, war, independence

Laxness started to lean towards socialism after having traveled to the United States to try to make films. This is evident in his book Atom Station, about the fight of some ordinary people to find a place in a new Iceland controlled by the Cold War invasion of an American bomber base into the hearts and minds of the politicians. It is told from the point of view of a poor country woman who moves to the city, finds work as a maid for one of said politicians, and who somehow sees the folly of the whole thing, and who campaigns for what she sees as a bigger priority, social welfare from the government.

Independent People is a sort of deadpan tragedy. It is the story of a man's life from just after he escapes his virtual enslavement to a local rural family on a remote end of Iceland, up through his attempts to build a family, a home, and a future for himself. However, from reading it, it is never explicitly stated that the setting is a remote part of Iceland. The reader only knows what the character thinks about it; and as far as he is concerned, it is a good plot of land. It is all he's ever known, he hasn't wandered in his mind to France or Germany or America. So as far as the reader knows, the land is just his Land.

It reveals some of Laxness's anti-war leanings in a chapter that consists of Icelandic fisherman sitting around talking about how the fish sales sure have gone up since the Europeans started murdering each other for no good reason. Also displayed is hatred of politicians, as he depicts them as all bosom buddies, part of some exclusive mindset that renders them too busy hobnobbing with each other and fulfilling grand ideals for them to actually care about what the poor people are going through.

Readers may also interpret it as an indictment of the idea of independence — not the good kind of independence, but independence taken to such an extreme that it becomes willful ignorance, and a sort of slavery of family members to the patriarch's ideas. To him his ideas are unquestionable, and inherently linked to his 'freedom'. This ends with alienating his family, in tragedy, in every minuscule and minute detail that Laxness paints with. Then he pulls back, and the reader realizes that just about every person out there on this part of the Icelandic ground was going through similar experiences. Poor health, near starvation, exploitative merchants, ignorance, hatred, etc. People will probably notice that Laxness, although he shows clearly that the main character destroyed the lives of some members of his family, the author seems to have a deep understanding of how that character came to exist, of why he exists, of why everything happens. Laxness still manages to dig out some shred of hope and love from the abysmal rural disenfranchized powerless poverty depicted in the book, and to find some human tenderness inside the burly troll monster of the main character.


The following is a partial list of publications written by or connected with Laxness:

  • 1919: Barn náttúrunnar, novel
  • 1923: Nokkrar sögur, short stories
  • 1924: Undir Helgahnúk, novel
  • 1925: Kaţólsk viđhorf, essay
  • 1927: Vefarinn mikli frá Kasmír, novel
  • 1929: Alţýđubókin, articles
  • 1930: Kvćđakver, poems
  • 1931: Salka Valka (Part I) - Ţú vínviđur hreini, novel
  • 1932: Salka Valka (Part II) - Fuglinnn í fjörunni, novel
  • 1933: Fótatak manna, short stories (see Ţćttir)
  • 1933: Í Austurvegi, travelogue
  • 1934: Straumrof, play
  • 1934: Sjálfstćtt fólk (Part I) - Landnámsmađur Íslands, novel
  • 1935: Sjálfstćtt fólk (Part II) - Erfiđir tímar, novel
  • 1935: Ţórđur gamli halti, short stories (see Ţćttir)
  • 1937: Dagleiđ á fjöllum, articles
  • 1937: Heimsljós (Part I) - Ljós heimsins (later named, Kraftbirtíngarhljómur guđdómsins), novel
  • 1938: Gerska ćfintýriđ, travelogue
  • 1938: Heimsljós (Part II) - Höll sumarlandsins, novel
  • 1939: Heimsljós (Part III) - Hús skáldsins, novel
  • 1940: Heimsljós (Part IV) - Fegurđ himinsins, novel
  • 1942: Vettvángur dagsins, articles
  • 1942: Sjö töframenn, short stories (see Ţćttir)
  • 1943: Íslandsklukkan (Part I) - Íslandsklukkan, novel
  • 1944: Íslandsklukkan (Part II) - Hiđ ljósa man, novel
  • 1946: Íslandsklukkan (Part III) - Eldur í Kaupinhafn, novel
  • 1946: Sjálfsagđir hlutir, essays
  • 1948: Atómstöđin, novel
  • 1950: Reisubókarkorn, articles
  • 1950: Snćfríđur Íslandssól, play (from Íslandsklukkan)
  • 1952: Gerpla, novel
  • 1952: Heiman eg fór, novel/travelogue
  • 1954: Silfurtúngliđ, play
  • 1954: Ţćttir, collected short stories
  • 1955: Dagur í senn, articles
  • 1957: Brekkukotsannáll, novel
  • 1959: Gjörníngabók, articles
  • 1960: Paradísarheimt, novel
  • 1961: Strompleikurinn, play
  • 1962: Prjónastofan Sólin, play
  • 1963: Skáldatími, articles
  • 1964: Sjöstafakveriđ, short stories
  • 1965: Upphaf mannúđarstefnu, articles
  • 1966: Dúfnaveislan, play
  • 1967: Íslendíngaspjall, articles
  • 1968: Kristnihald undir Jökli, novel
  • 1969: Vínlandspúnktar, articles
  • 1970: Innansveitarkronika, novel
  • 1970: Úa, play (from Kristnihald undir Jökli)
  • 1971: Yfirskygđir stađir, articles
  • 1972: Guđsgjafaţula, novel
  • 1972: Norđanstúlkan, play (from Atómstöđin)
  • 1974: Ţjóđhátíđarrolla, articles
  • 1975: Í túninu heima, memoirs I
  • 1976: Úngur eg var, memoirs III
  • 1977: Seiseijú, mikil ósköp, articles
  • 1978: Sjömeistarasagan, memoirs II
  • 1980: Grikklandsáriđ, memoirs IV
  • 1981: Viđ heygarđshorniđ, articles
  • 1984: Og árin líđa, articles
  • 1986: Af menníngarástandi, articles
  • 1987: Dagar hjá múnkum, memoirs
  • 1987: Sagan af brauđinu dýra, short story
  • 1992: Jón í Brauđhúsum, short story
  • 1992: Skáldsnilld Laxness
  • 1996: Fugl á garđstaurnum og fleiri smásögur, short stories
  • 1997: Únglíngurinn í skóginum, poem
  • 1998: Perlur í skáldskap Laxness
  • 1999: Úngfrúin góđa og Húsiđ, short story
  • 2000: Smásögur, short stories
  • 2001: Gullkorn úr greinum Laxness
  • 2001: Kórvilla á Vestfjörđum og fleiri sögur, short stories.
  • 2001: Laxness um land og Ţjóđ

References and external links

In Icelandic:

  • Hannes Hólmsteinn Gissurarson. 2003. Halldór. Almenna bókafélagiđ, Reykjavík.
  • Íslenska alfrćđiorđabókin H-O. 1990. Editors: Dóra Hafsteinsdóttir and Sigríđur Harđardóttir. Örn og Örlygur hf., Reykjavík.
  • Ritaskrá (
  • Halldór Laxness (
  • Sýning - Ţar ríkir fegurđin ein, öld međ Halldóri Laxness (

In English:

  • Biography ( from the Nobel Prize website

bg:Халдор Лакснес

de:Halldór Laxness eo:Halldór Kiljan LAXNESS hu:Halldór Laxness is:Halldór Laxness no:Halldór Laxness pl:Halldór Kiljan Laxness ro:Halldór Laxness sv:Halldór Laxness


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