About the author
Halldór Laxness was born near Reykjavík in 1902 (birth name: Halldór Kiljan Guðjónsson), but spent his youth in the countryside. From the age of 17 onwards, he travelled and lived abroad, chiefly on the European continent. His first novel was also published when he was 17 years old.
Laxness was influenced by expressionism and other modern currents in Germany and France. In the mid-1920s he was converted to Catholicism and his spiritual experiences are reflected in several books of an autobiographical nature, chiefly 1924’s Under the Holy Mountain. In 1927, he published his first important novel, The Great Weaver from Kashmir.
Laxness’s religious period did not last long; during a visit to America he became attracted to socialism. The Book of the People published in 1929 is evidence of a change toward a socialist outlook. In 1930, he settled back in Iceland.
Laxness is the undisputed master of contemporary Icelandic fiction and he is one of the outstanding novelists of the twentieth century, his work was translated into more than 30 languages. Known by critics and readers alike as the ‘Tolstoy of the North’, Laxness was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1955.
The 1940s were a particularly successful era for Laxness; he translated Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms into Icelandic in 1941, with controversial neologisms. In 1946 his novel, Independent People was released as a Book of the Month Club selection in the United States, selling over 450,000 copies.
Laxness was married twice – to Ingibjörg Einarsdóttir (1930-40) Auður Sveinsdóttir (1945-98) – and died in 1998, aged 95, in Reykjavik. He had four children.
Gljúfrasteinn was the home and workplace of Halldór Laxness and his family for more than half a century. It has now been opened to the public as a museum, unchanged from when Laxness lived there. The museum’s website lists the works by Laxness that have been translated into English.
Stand-alone novels (in order of publication in Iceland)
Child of Nature – this work has not been translated into English
Under the Holy Mountain – this work has not been translated into English
The Great Weaver from Kashmir (translated by Philip Roughton) – only available in the USA from Archipelago Books
Salka Valka (translated by F H Lyon) – this work is currently out of print in English
The Honour of the House – this work is currently out of print in English
Independent People (translated by J A Thompson)
World Light (translated by Magnus Magnusson)
Iceland’s Bell (translated by Philip Roughton)
The Atom Station (translated by Magnus Magnusson)
Fish Can Sing (translated by Magnus Magnusson)
Paradise Reclaimed (translated by Magnus Magnusson)
Under the Glacier (translated by Magnus Magnusson)
Note regarding the translation of Independent People
J A Thompson was born in Berwick-upon-Tweed in 1910. After graduating in English and Nordic language and literature from the University of Leeds he worked as a school teacher in Akureyi in the north of Iceland from 1931-2 before moving back to Berwick. His translation of Independent People was his only work of translation, the labour of many years. It is generally accepted to be the finest translation into any language of Laxness’s masterpieces.
A Quire of Seven – this work is currently out of print in English (translated by Alan Boucher for 1974 edition)
For further information and interview requests please contact Rosanna Boscawen:
USA: Vintage International
Halldór Laxness’s books are published by Vintage International in paperback.
Media inquiries and requests for review copies that are title, author, or imprint specific should be submitted to the e-mail address of the imprint:
USA: Archipelago Books
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Several of Halldór Laxness’s novels have been made into Icelandic films, namely Salka Valka, The Atom Station (filmed as Atomic Station) and Under the Glacier. There has also been a television adaption in Icelandic of Salka Valka.
None of Laxness’s works have yet been produced as English-language films or television series.