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.
Halldór Kiljan Laxness was the son of Sigríđur Halldórsdóttir (born 1872) and Guđjón Helgason (born 1870). During his first years he lived in Reykjavík, but then he moved to Laxnes in Mosfellssveit in 1905.
He soon started to read books and write stories, and when he was 14 years old he got his first article 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. In his career he wrote 51 books, many newspaper articles, poems, plays, short stories and more. For a list of publications by Laxness, see Publications.
He was married and had four children. From 1945, Laxness lived in Gljúfrasteinn, Mosfellsveit.
Laxness died on February 8th 1998 at the age of 95.
In 2003 Hannes Hólmsteinn Gissurarson published the 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 in account when considering Laxness's life.
In the end of 1922, Laxness joined an abbey in Clervaux, Luxemburg. 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 the year 1923. It was at that occasion he adopted the family name Laxness and added Kiljan after his first name, Halldór. Kiljan was an Irish martyr and saint.
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 sKasmír, published in 1927.
(See H.H.G. 2003:204, 213, 217, 229-231, 273, 213-214 and some points in chapter 5. - 2004. Ritaskrá. - 2004. Halldór Laxness. - Íslenska Alfrćđiorđabókin H-O. 1990:18)
Socialism, Independent People, war, indepenence
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 sort of deadpan tragedy. It is basically 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 anti-war leanings in a chapter that consists of Iceland 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 willfull 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 bitterly hates the main character for the lives he has destroyed, has 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.
Modern readers might be alarmed by his racist remarks about Africa and black people. There are only one or two sentences in Independent People, and Atom Station, and perhaps others, but they reveal that he was not subject to the modern pressure to consider the races equal. Perhaps the translation of some harmless Icelandic word ended up as 'nigger' in English, or perhaps not. Either way, there is more than a single word that is condescending and prejudiced about the sentences of problem.
1919: Barn náttúrunnar, novel
1923: Nokkrar sögur, short stories
1924: Undir Helgahnúk, novel
1925: KaŢólsk viđ horf, essay
1927: Vefarinn mikli frá Kasmír, novel
1929: AlŢy´đubókin, 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, travelog
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 it was named ,,Kraftbirtíngarhljómur guđdómsins``), novel
1938: Gerska ćfinty´riđ, travelog
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 the ,,Íslandsklukkan``)
1952: Gerpla, novel
1952: Heiman eg fór, novel/travelog
1954: Silfurtúngliđ, play
1954: Ţćttir, short stories (earlier short stories gathered to gather)
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 the ,,Kristnihaldi undir Jökli``)
1971: Yfirskygđir stađir, articles
1972: GuđsgjafaŢula, novel
1972: Norđanstúlkan, play (from the ,,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 dy´ra, 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.
Some of these books, specially the ones published after 1987, are not by Laxness, but they are connected to his works. Also, this list is not the complete list of Laxness publications nor all the publications connected to his works.