Halldór Kiljan Laxness
The Nobel Prize in Literature 1955
Born: 23 April 1902, Reykjavik, Iceland
Died: 8 February 1998, Reykjavik, Iceland
Residence at the time of the award: Iceland
Prize motivation: “for his vivid epic power which has renewed the great narrative art of Iceland”
Prize share: 1/1
Halldór Laxness grew up in rural Iceland in the Laxnes area outside Reykjavik. He began traveling at age 17 and lived in many European countries. In connection with his conversion to Catholicism in 1923, he took the place where he grew up as his surname. After a few years as a Catholic, Laxness became a socialist. He became aware of socialism during a visit to the United States, where he lived from 1927 to 1929. Several of his works have been adapted for film and the stage.
Halldór Laxness wrote novels, poetry, journalism, essays and plays. He is best remembered for three series of novels written during the 1930s that take place in Iceland and in various ways involve social realism. Salka Valka: a Novel of Iceland (1931–32) describes life in an Icelandic fishing village; Sjálfstætt fólk: Hetjusaga (1934–35) (Independent People: an Epic) is a series about a poor peasant’s struggle for survival; and Heimsljós (1937–40) (World Light) is a four-part series inspired by the life of poet Magnús Hjaltason Magnusson. Later works by Laxness were influenced by the traditional Icelandic saga.
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