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Halldor Laxness

Page history last edited by Rick Fehrenbacher 14 years, 2 months ago


Halldor Laxness


 A painting of Halldor laxnessHalldor Kiljan Laxness was born Halldor Gudjonssonn Reykjavik in 1902.  After living there for three years his family moved a few hours North to a small farm named Laxness (from which he got his pen name).  The farm was just outside the town Mosfellsbaer, which is where Egil Skallagrimsson supposedly buried his treasure of silver.  He died in Iceland in 1998.  During his life he travelled the world, studied in a monastary (almost joining the priesthood), moved to Hollywood (almost becoming a screenwriter), became friends with Upton Sinclair, got married, became a staunch socialist, won the Nobel Prize and was unoffically blacklisted from the United States. His first novel Child of Nature was published when Laxness was only 17 years old.  He continued to write and publish throughout his life.  Despite having travelled all over the world (Luxemburg, America, Russia, Germany, etc.) all of his works are set in Iceland, dealing with Icelandic people, places, and problems.  He said that his grandmother taught him to recite old Icelandic poetry and the sagas before he even knew the alphabet.  This instilled in him a love and respect for the old tales that is visible in all of his work.  While living in America he developed a strong friendship with American author Upton Sinclair.  His books have been translated into over 40 different languages.  When he was 32 years old he published his most famous work, Independent People: An Epic


While his novels have been translated into many different languages, and he is critically acclaimed and respected in nearly all of Europe, he remains widely unread in America.  This could be because of his strong socialist leanings.  Or it could be beause in 1946, only two years after Iceland gained its independence from Denmark and only year after World War Two, the United States wanted to place a military base in Iceland.  Laxness was in vocal opposition and called the Icelanders that voted in favor of the military base 'traitors'. 



Halldor Laxness published over 60 books.  However only a handful have been translated into English, and until 1997 had been long out of print in the United States.  Here is a list of his books that have been translated into English and are currently in print.




Books About Halldor Laxness




The Great Weaver From Reykjavik

An article discussing the life and works of Halldor Laxness.  Also, pictures.


Coffee With Halldor Laxness

Someone recalls having coffee with Laxness and discusses his two favorite books by the author.


Biography From Nobel

A brief biography of the author from the Nobel Prize's website.


Nobel Banquet Speech

A speech given by Laxness.  Available as text (in Swedish and English), or audio recording (only Swedish).


Halldor Laxness Dies at 95; Reinterpreted Icelandic Sagas

An article published in the New York Times shortly after the author's death.


Isle of Blight

Review in the New York Times of Laxness's novel Iceland's Bell.


Report On A Journey

Susan Sontag's introduction to Laxness's novel Under The Glacier .  Finished just a few weeks before she died.


Halldor Laxness and The CIA 

An article discussing the blacklisting of Laxness, and the FBI and CIA's interest in the Icelandic author.


Halldor Laxness Museum

Pictures of Laxness, and his house.  Information about Laxness and the museum.  Mostly in Icelandic.


Halldor Laxness

A brief overview of the writer's life and work.


Halldor Laxness Quotes

Collected quotes from the author.


Halldor Laxness Online

A fan page that has some good information.  It hasn't been updated in years, and looks like half the things intended for the site never got put up, but still worth looking at.







A three part documentary on Laxness.  In German.

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Here is one about the Laxness museum.  It is in English.

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The words of this song were written by Halldor Laxness.  In Icelandic.

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And the lyrics can be found in both Icelandic and English here




Dillard, Annie.  "Hard Times In Ultima Thule".  New York Times Book Review.  Page 35.  April 20, 1997.

Fadiman, James.  "Past Present".  Nation.  Vol 250.  Issue 21.  Page 750-752.  May 1990.

Hallmundsson, Hallberg.  "Halldor Laxness And The Saga of Modern Iceland".  The Georgia Review.  Vol 49.  Issue 1.  Page 39.  1995.

Larington, Carolyne.  "Bjartur's Saga".  TLS.  Issue 5048.  Page 19.  December 1999.

Leithauser, Brad.  "End of An Epic".  New York Review of Books.  Vol 45.  Issue 5.  Page 17-19.  March 1998.

Leithauser, Brad.  "A Small Country's Great Book"  New York Review of Books.  Vol 42.  Issue 8.  Page 41-46.  May 1995.

Magnusson, Sigurdur A.  "The World of Halldor Laxness".  World Literature Today.  Vol 66.  Issue 3.  Page 457-563.  Summer 1992.

Talmor, Sacsha.  "The Bell of Iceland".  European Legacy.  Vol 7.  Issue 5.  Page 621-640.  October 2002.

Talmor, Sacsha.  "Bjartur of Summerhouses - An Icelandic Sisyphus".  European Legacy.  Vol 5.  Issue 1.  February 2000.





Comments (1)

Tim said

at 1:41 am on Nov 16, 2009

I put this in the wrong person's folder, because, you know, I'm an idiot.

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