Laxness, Halldór Kiljan

Laxness, Halldór Kiljan

Laxness, Halldór Kiljan, 1902-98, Icelandic novelist, b. Reykjavík as Halldór Kiljan Gudjónsson. Although Laxness was converted to Roman Catholicism briefly, The Weaver of Cashmere (1927) expressed his disillusionment with Christianity. His sympathies turned toward socialism and communism and are reflected in later novels. Salka Valka (1931-32, tr. 1936), Independent People (1934-35, tr. 1945-46), and The Light of the World (1937-40, tr. 1969) deal with Icelandic peasant life and describe an endless search for independence. Set in the late 17th cent., the complex Iceland's Bell (1943, tr. 2003), has been considered both his bleakest work of fiction and the centerpiece of his oeuvre. Written in the great narrative tradition of the Icelandic epics, his novels set a new style for modern Icelandic literature and often provoked bitter controversy. His later works, such as the original and often comic Christianity at Glacier (1969, tr. 1972, tr. as Under the Glacier, 2005), exhibit an interest in Taoism. Laxness, who wrote more than 60 books including short stories, essays, poems, plays, and memoirs as well as novels, received the 1955 Nobel Prize in Literature.

See studies by P. Hallberg (1971, repr. 1982).

Halldór Kiljan Laxness (born Halldór Guðjónsson) (April 23, 1902February 8, 1998) was a 20th century Icelandic novelist and author of Independent People, The Atom Station, and Iceland's Bell. He won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1955.

Early life

Laxness was born under the name Halldór Guðjónsson (following the tradition of Icelandic patronymics) in Reykjavik in 1902, the son of Guðjón Helgason and Sigríður Halldórsdóttir. After spending his early years in Reykjavik, he moved with his family in 1905 to Laxnes near Mosfellsbær, a more rural area just north of the capital. He soon started to read books and write stories. At the age of 14 his first article was published in Morgunblaðið under the name H.G..

Roman Catholicism

In 1922, Laxness joined the Abbaye St. Maurice et St. Maur in Clervaux, Luxembourg. The monks followed the rules of Saint Benedict of Nursia. Laxness was baptized and confirmed in the Roman Catholic Church early in 1923. Following his confirmation, he adopted the surname Laxness (in honor of the homestead where he had been raised) and added the name Kiljan (an Icelandic spelling of the Irish martyr Saint Killian).

Inside the walls of the abbey, he practiced self-study, read books, and studied French, Latin, theology and philosophy. While there, he also composed the story Undir Helgahnjúk, published in 1924. Soon after his baptism, he 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.

Literary career

During his career Laxness wrote poetry, newspaper articles, plays, travelogues, short stories, and fifty-one novels.

Later life

Laxness moved to the United States and attempted to make films in the mid-20th century. He returned to Iceland in 1945 and settled in Gljúfrasteinn, Mosfellsdalur until his death. His house in Gljúfrasteinn is now a museum operated by the Icelandic government.

He was married twice, including his second marriage to Auður Sveinsdóttir. He had four children.

Laxness died in Iceland in 1998 at the age of 95.

Reception

The single volume biography by Halldór Guðmundsson won the Icelandic literary prize for best work of non-fiction in 2004. In 2005 the Icelandic National Theatre premiered a play by Ólafur Haukur Símonarson, called Halldór í Hollywood (Halldór in Hollywood) about the years that Laxness spent in the United States.

Publications

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

Novels

  • 1919: Barn náttúrunnar
  • 1924: Undir Helgahnúk
  • 1927: Vefarinn mikli frá Kasmír
  • 1931: Salka Valka (Part I) - Þú vínviður hreini
  • 1932: Salka Valka (Part II) - Fuglinn í fjörunni
  • 1934: Sjálfstætt fólk (Part I, Independent People) - Landnámsmaður Íslands (Icelandic Pioneers)
  • 1935: Sjálfstætt fólk (Part II) - Erfiðir tímar (Hard Times)
  • 1937: Heimsljós (Part I, World Light) - Ljós heimsins (later named Kraftbirtíngarhljómur guðdómsins)
  • 1938: Heimsljós (Part II) - Höll sumarlandsins
  • 1939: Heimsljós (Part III) - Hús skáldsins
  • 1940: Heimsljós (Part IV) - Fegurð himinsins
  • 1952: Heiman eg fór
  • 1943: Íslandsklukkan (Iceland's Bell, Part I) - Íslandsklukkan
  • 1944: Íslandsklukkan (Part II) - Hið ljósa man
  • 1946: Íslandsklukkan (Part III) - Eldur í Kaupinhafn
  • 1948: Atómstöðin (The Atom Station)
  • 1952: Gerpla (Happy Warriors)
  • 1957: Brekkukotsannáll (The Fish Can Sing)
  • 1960: Paradísarheimt (Paradise Reclaimed)
  • 1968: Kristnihald undir Jökli (Under the Glacier/Christianity at Glacier)
  • 1970: Innansveitarkronika
  • 1972: Guðsgjafaþula

Stories

  • 1923: Nokkrar sögur
  • 1933: Fótatak manna
  • 1935: Þórður gamli halti
  • 1942: Sjö töframenn
  • 1954: Þættir (collection)
  • 1964: Sjöstafakverið
  • 1987: Sagan af brauðinu dýra
  • 1992: Jón í Brauðhúsum
  • 1996: Fugl á garðstaurnum og fleiri smásögur
  • 1999: Úngfrúin góða og Húsið
  • 2000: Smásögur
  • 2001: Kórvilla á Vestfjörðum og fleiri sögur

Plays

  • 1934: Straumrof
  • 1950: Snæfríður Íslandssól (from the novel Íslandsklukkan)
  • 1954: Silfurtúnglið
  • 1961: Strompleikurinn
  • 1962: Prjónastofan Sólin
  • 1966: Dúfnaveislan
  • 1970: Úa (from the novel Kristnihald undir Jökli)
  • 1972: Norðanstúlkan (from the novel Atómstöðin)

Poetry

  • 1930: Kvæðakver
  • 1997: Únglíngurinn í skóginum

Travelogues

  • 1933: Í Austurvegi
  • 1938: Gerska æfintýrið

Memoirs

  • 1975: Í túninu heima, part I
  • 1976: Úngur eg var, part II
  • 1978: Sjömeistarasagan, part III
  • 1980: Grikklandsárið, part IV
  • 1987: Dagar hjá múnkum

Popular culture references

Family

His daughter Gudny Halldorsdóttir is an award-winning filmmaker. Her first work, a popular magical realism-ending film adaptation of Kristnihald undir jōkli (Christianity at Glacier) screened at world film festivals and repertory cinemas for many years since, including in the European cites, the USA and in Canada (at least Toronto and Montreal). The film is well known in Iceland.

His grandson is a rap artist in Iceland, performing as Dóri DNA.

References, further reading and external links

In Icelandic:

  • Hallberg, Peter. 1970. Hús skáldsins: um skáldverk Halldórs Laxness frá Sölku Völku til Gerplu. Reykjavík. Mál og menning.
  • Hallberg, Peter. 1975. Halldór Laxness. Hið íslenska bókmenntafélag, Reykjavík.
  • Halldór Guðmundsson. 2004. Halldór Laxness. JPV, Reykjavík
  • Hannes Hólmsteinn Gissurarson. 2003. Halldór. Vol. I of Laxness’ biography. Almenna bókafélagið, Reykjavík.
  • Hannes Hólmsteinn Gissurarson. 2004. Kiljan. Vol. II of Laxness’ biography. Bókafélagið, Reykjavík.
  • Hannes Hólmsteinn Gissurarson. 2005. Laxness. Vol. III of Laxness’ biography. Bókafélagið, Reykjavík.
  • Íslenska alfræðiorðabókin H-O. 1990. Editors: Dóra Hafsteinsdóttir and Sigríður Harðardóttir. Örn og Örlygur hf., Reykjavík.
  • Ólafur Ragnarsson and Valgerður Benediktsdóttir. 1992. Lífsmyndir skálds : æviferill Halldórs Laxness í myndum og máli. Vaka-Helgafell, Reykjavík.
  • Ólafur Ragnarsson. 2002. Halldór Laxness : líf í skáldskap. Vaka-Helgafell, Reykjavík.
  • Ólafur Ragnarsson. 2007. Til fundar við skáldið Halldór Laxness. Veröld, Reykjavík.
  • Bibliography
  • Halldór Laxness
  • - Gljúfrasteinn The Halldór Laxness Museum web site in several languages, including English

In English:


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