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Halldór Laxness (1902–1998)

Author of Independent People

126+ Works 6,719 Members 202 Reviews 48 Favorited

About the Author

When presenting the 1955 Nobel Prize to Laxness, the Swedish Academy of Letters cited "his vivid writing, which has renewed the Icelandic narrative art." Laxness has been by turns a Catholic convert, a socialist, and a target of the radical press, some of whom accused Laxness of a class ambivalence show more the Saturday Review summarized this way: "Though Laxness came to believe that the novelist's best material is to be found in the proletariat, his rejection of middle-class concerns was never complete, and the ambiguity of his attitude toward the conflict of cultural values accounts for the mixture of humor and pathos that is characteristic of all his novels." Independent People (1934--35) was a bestseller in this country; Paradise Reclaimed Reclaimed (1960), based in part on Laxness's own experiences in the United States, is a novel about a nineteenth-century Icelandic farmer and his travels and experiences, culminating in his conversion to the Mormon church. Laxness owes much to the tradition of the sagas and writes with understated restraint, concentrating almost entirely on external details, from which he extracts the utmost in absurdity. An Atlantic writer found that The Fish Can Sing (1957), the adventures of a young man in 1900 who wants to be a singer, "simmers with an ironic, disrespectful mirth which gives unexpected dimensions to the themes of lost innocence and the nature of art." (Bowker Author Biography) show less


Works by Halldór Laxness

Independent People (1946) 2,826 copies
Iceland's Bell (1951) 660 copies
The Fish Can Sing (1966) 620 copies
Under the Glacier (1968) 597 copies
The Atom Station (1961) 397 copies
Salka Valka (1948) 343 copies
World Light (1937) 319 copies
Paradise Reclaimed (1960) 266 copies
The Happy Warriors (1952) 147 copies
The Honour of the House (1933) 47 copies
Innansveitarkronika (1970) 28 copies
Sieben Zauberer (1942) 24 copies
Í túninu heima (1975) 19 copies
A Quire of Seven (1974) 18 copies
Sjömeistarasagan (1981) 9 copies
Úngur eg var (1980) 7 copies
Alþýðubókin 6 copies
Grikklandsárið (1983) 5 copies
Barn náttúrunnar (1992) 5 copies
Kvæðakver (1992) 5 copies
Ein Spiegelbild im Wasser (2012) 4 copies
Mein heiliger Stein (1923) 4 copies
Skaldatimi 4 copies
Ozgur Insanlar (2015) 3 copies
Undir Helgahnúk (1991) 3 copies
Reisubókarkorn (1963) 3 copies
Ásta Sóllilja 3 copies
Smásögur (2000) 3 copies
Dagar hjá múnkum (1989) 3 copies
Norðanstúlkan 2 copies
Silfurtúnglið 2 copies
Fortid og nutid : essays (1986) 2 copies
Indensognskrønike (1971) 2 copies
Vi islendinger (1974) 2 copies
Thaettir 2 copies
Gjorningabok 2 copies
Dagur i Senn 2 copies
Straumrof 2 copies
Noveller 2 copies
Af ska ldum 1 copy
Lesebuch 1 copy
Romanzi. 1 copy
Sju tecken 1 copy
*ANY 1 copy
Werkausgabe, 11 Bde. (2002) 1 copy
Opere 1 copy
Utsaga 1 copy

Associated Works


Common Knowledge

Canonical name
Laxness, Halldór
Legal name
Halldór Kiljan Guthdjonsson
Other names
Laxness, Halldór
Date of death
Burial location
Mosfell, Iceland
Reykjavík, Iceland
Place of death
Reykjavík, Iceland
Cause of death
Alzheimer's disease
Places of residence
Mosfellssveit, Iceland
Awards and honors
Nobel Prize (Literature, 1955)



July 2015: Halldor Laxness in Monthly Author Reads (July 2015)
Group Read, June 2015: Independent People in 1001 Books to read before you die (June 2015)
Ligiloj: eo.Wikipedia - epo in Esperanto! (March 2012)


Many years ago I read and loved this Nobelist's most well-known book, Independent People, so I was intrigued to read this novel after reading jpaul's review. As the novel opens, Salka and her mother Sigurlina are debarking at the fishing village of Oseyri. Sigurlina is seeking work, and they've come from up north, intending to go to Reykjavik, but this was as far as their meager funds would take them. They arrive penniless, with few possessions and few prospects for work. After spending the night at the Salvation Army, they gradually begin making a life for themselves in the village. Salka is about 10 years old when they arrive, and even as a young girl she is independent and strong-willed. The whole first part of the novel depicting Salka's young girlhood is a delight.

The second part features Salka as a young woman who has begun to have some financial success. She is instrumental in a newly formed fisherman's union, wears trousers and mostly doesn't care what she looks like. This part dragged for me at times because there was a lot of political maneuvering and discussion. Communist organizers are moving in, elections, rigged or otherwise, are being held. Some of the villagers want to get rid of Johan Bogeson who has controlled the fishing industry in the village for years and who pays those who work for him not in cash, but in credit at the company store, which he also owns. ( "And although the villagers toiled incessantly in competition with the whims of the weather, the fruits of their labor were nowhere to be seen; everything disappeared down the same hole, whether people fished for a share of the catch or a fixed wage: their accounts with Johan Bogeson swallowed everything. Here no one ever saw money.") Other villagers see Bogeson as kind and benevolent, keeping them fed and housed in the lean years. The politicking in this section went on a bit long for me. This second part, as well as the final section, also contains snippets of romance and sexual awakening for Salka, raising issues as to whether she can maintain her strong sense of self as she comes into womanhood.

Amazon describes this as a "feminist coming of age" story, and it is that. Salka was a fascinating character, the descriptions of the village, the villagers and their day to day life, hard and poverty-stricken as it was, is engaging and interesting. Even the political shenigans interested me to an extent, just going on a tad too long. I'm glad I read this book.

Some quotes:

"There never seemed to be good weather in this village because the Creator was always experimenting with His sky. After frost and snow, He brought wind which whipped the snow into drifts. After whipping the snow into drifts, He would send a thaw, and melt all the drifts that He had swept together with great effort. All in all, it might be said that the Creator's favorite weather for this village was rain, which stirred up all sorts of stenches: sea and seaweed, fish, fish heads and fish guts, train oil, tar, manure, and refuse."

"Well, as I've always said, the depravity of the rich is like the sea; if you knew what dwelt in it, you would never dare dip your hand into it."

3 1/2 stars
… (more)
arubabookwoman | 8 other reviews | Nov 21, 2023 |
Read as a prep for the Iceland Writers Retreat April 2017. This book won the Nobel prize in literature. It's thick, meaty, filled with philosophical discussions about being independent. It gives a picture of the Icelandic people that also shows through in their "lighter" fiction.
The writing is dense but involving. I felt the harshness of life in the croft, the bitterness of the man struggling to be independent and losing his family on the way- the tension between independence and selfishness is strong. Well worth a read, but keep mood lighteners nearby. Reading it in winter, especially over the solstice, will help place you in the croft with the starving farmers. Bring coffee.… (more)
Dabble58 | 96 other reviews | Nov 11, 2023 |
In my heart of hearts, I'd love to return to this one day, since I feel the story is much improved after I grasped the theme of it, but I'm honestly not sure. I can see myself keeping my copy on the shelf to return to bits and pieces of it, but not rereading entirely.

It was only my respect for Halldór Laxness that kept me from bailing on the book in the first half. The second half, once I got a grasp on what was going on, was fantastic though.
pigeoncube | 20 other reviews | Oct 29, 2023 |
A beautiful book, much better than "Iceland's Bell." Still quite grim, but not overwhelmingly so, and with incredibly drawn characters.
lschiff | 96 other reviews | Sep 24, 2023 |



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Associated Authors

Marcel Otten Translator, Afterword
Bruno Kress Translator
Hubert Seelow Afterword, Translator
Annie Posthumus Translator
Philip Roughton Translator, Translator.
Magnus Magnusson Translator
J.A. Thompson Translator
Tone Myklebost Translator
Ion VINEA Translator
Brad Leithauser Introduction
John Freeman Introduction
Robert Nix Cover designer
Anthea Craigmyle Cover artist
Peter Hallberg Translator


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