Laxness, Halldór Kiljan

Laxness, Halldór Kiljan

(häl`dōr kĭl`yän läkhs`nĕs), 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 TaoismTaoism
, refers both to a Chinese system of thought and to one of the four major religions of China (with Confucianism, Buddhism, and Chinese popular religion). Philosophical Taoism

The philosophical system stems largely from the Tao-te-ching,
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. 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).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Laxness, Halldór Kiljan


(pseudonym of H. GuDTilde-jonsson). Born Apr. 23, 1902, in Reykjavik. Icelandic writer. Son of a road foreman.

Laxness began his literary career with the romantic novella Child of Nature (1919). He published the philosophical novel The Great Weaver From Kashmir in 1927. His stay in the USA and Canada (1928–29) brought Laxness into contact with socialist ideas; their influence is felt in the collection of sketches The Book of the People (1929). The realistic novel Salka Valka (vols. 1–2, 1931–32; Russian translation, 1959), described the first steps of the Icelandic workers’ movement. The theme of Independent People (vols. 1–2,1934–35; Russian translation, 1954) is the tragic struggle of a poor peasant for land and human dignity. The tetralogy Olafur Ljósvíkingur (1937–40; Russian translation, Light of the World, 1969) lyrically recounts the fate of a poet in bourgeois society.

Impressions of the USSR formed the basis of two books of travel notes, Road to the East (1933) and Russian Fairy Tale (1938). In the historical trilogy The Bell of Iceland (1943–46) and the satirical novel Atomic Station (1948; Russian translation, 1954), Laxness set forth the problems of Iceland’s national independence and the struggle with fascism. Laxness condemned war in Happy Warriors (1952; Russian translation, Gerpla, a separate chapter published in 1957). The novels Brekkukotsannáll (1957; Russian translation, 1958) and Paradise Won (1960) depict the search for genuinely human values.

Laxness also wrote plays—for example, Song of a Pipe (1961), The Sun Workshop (1962), and Banquet of Roast Pigeons (1966) —that reflect his search for new (conventional) forms to express moral and ethical problems.

Laxness’ artistic approach organically combines pathos and irony, profound psychological insight, subtle lyricism, humor, and the influence of the epic style of the Icelandic sagas. A book of essays and reminiscences, Hidden Places, was published in 1971. Laxness’ humanism, formed under the influence of socialist ideas, and his criticism of bourgeois society are sometimes interwoven with thoughts about the limitations of human capabilities.

Laxness is a member of the International Peace Council and chairman of the Iceland-USSR Society (1950). He was awarded the International Peace Prize (1953) and the Nobel Prize (1955).


Kristni hald undir jõkli. Reykjavik, 1968.

Innansveitarkrõnika. Reykjavik, 1970.

In Russian translation:

Liria. Moscow, 1955.

Prodannaia kolybel’naia. Moscow, 1955. [Rasskazy.] In Rasskazy skandinavskikh pisatelei Moscow, 1957.

Milaia freken i gospodskii dom. Moscow, 1961.


Andresson, K. Sovremennaia islandskaia literatura, 1918–1948. Moscow, 1957.
Fadeev, A. “O Khaldore Laksnesse.” In Za tridtsat’ let, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1959.
Shatkov, G. “Gumanizm Laksnessa.” Inostrannaia literatura, 1958, no. 6.
Shatkov, G. “Samostoiatel’nye liudi i islandskie rodovye sagi.” In the collection Genezis sotsialisticheskogo realizma i literatura stran Zapada. Moscow, 1965.
Neustroev, V. P. “Islandskaia literatura.” In Istoriia zarubezhnoi literatury posle Oktiabr’skoi revoliutsii, part 1. [Moscow] 1969.
Krymova, N., and A. Pogodin. Khaldor Laksness. Zhizn’ i tvorchestvo. Moscow, 1970.
Hallberg, P. Den Store vävaren. Stockholm, 1954.
Hallberg, P. Skaldens hus. Stockholm, 1956.
Eskeland, I. Halldór Kiljan Laxness: Menneske og motiv. Oslo, 1955.
Khaldor Kil’ian Laksness: Biobibliograficheskii ukazatel’. Moscow, 1963.

AMRNI JOHANSON BERGMAN [Iceland; 14–359–3]

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.