1955 : Halldor Laxness

1955 : Halldor Laxness

“for his vivid epic power which has renewed the great narrative art of Iceland”

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Born

:

April 23, 1902

Place of birth

:

Reykjavik, Iceland

Died

:

February 8, 1998

Place of death

:

Reykjavik, Iceland

Occupation

:

Writer

Nationality

:

Iceland

Notable award(s)

:

Nobel Prize in Literature 1955

Biography:

Kiljan Halldor Laxness, born Halldor Gu?jonsson, (Reykjavik on April 23 1902 – February 8 1998) is a famous writer Icelandic twentieth century. Il remporta le prix Nobel de litterature en 1955 . He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1955.

Laxness passe son enfance dans la ferme de son pere dans la localite de Laxnes, dont il tirera plus tard son nom de plume. Laxness spent his childhood in the farm of his father in the town of Laxnes, which it will derive later his pen name. Il publie a dix-sept son premier roman, L’enfant et la Nature . It publishes at seventeen his first novel, Children and Nature. Il effectue de nombreux voyages a travers l’Europe (Scandinavie, Allemagne, France, Angleterre, Italie…) Il se convertit au catholicisme en 1923 et ajouta a son nom le prenom de Kiljan en l’honneur du saint irlandais. He makes many trips across Europe (Scandinavia, Germany, France, England, Italy …) He converted to Catholicism in 1923 and added its name Kiljan name in honor of the saint of Ireland. Il etudie la theologie en Italie puis au monastere de Clairvaux . He studied theology in Italy and then to the monastery of Clairvaux. Ses lectures du surrealisme et de Proust influencent Le grand tisserand du Cachemire (1927), son premier roman important. His readings of surrealism and Proust influence Major weaver Kashmir (1927), his first major novel. Il voyage ensuite aux Etats-Unis et au Canada, et se lie d’amitie avec le romancier Upton Sinclair . He then travel to the United States and Canada, and befriended the novelist Upton Sinclair. Il abandonne alors le catholicisme et embrasse les theses du communisme . He then abandoned Catholicism and embraced the theories of Communism. En 1930 il retourne en Islande et se marie. In 1930 he returned to Iceland and married. Il publie Gens Independants (1934) et Salka Valka (1932), dans lesquels transparaissent ses preoccupations sociales. It publishes Independent People (1934) and Salka Valka (1932), which reflected his social concerns. Il publie des vastes romans d’inspiration historique qui sont consideres comme ses chefs-d’?uvre: Lumiere du monde (1934), puis La cloche d’islande (1943). It publishes extensive historical novels of inspiration that are considered his masterpieces: Light of the World (1934), and then the bell Iceland (1943). Laxness divorce en 1936 et se remarie en 1945 avec une jeune femme de 21 ans. Laxness divorce in 1936 and remarried in 1945 with a young woman of 21 years. Au cours de ses voyages en URSS , Laxness prit conscience des erreurs du stalinisme et se detourna du communisme. Le paradis retrouve (1960) evoque a nouveau avec tendresse et ironie la difficile recherche de la spiritualite. During his travels in the USSR, Laxness became aware of the mistakes of Stalinism and turned away from communism. Paradise found (1960) again evokes tenderness and irony with the difficult search for spirituality. Atteint de la maladie d’Alzheimer , il est place en maison de retraite en 1995 et meurt en 1998. Suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, it is placed in a retirement home in 1995 and died in 1998.

Son ?uvre comprend plus de 60 ouvrages, romans, nouvelles, recits, et pieces de theatre. His work includes more than 60 books, novels, stories and plays. Mais il fut egalement journaliste et traducteur, notamment de Voltaire , Hemingway ou Lao-Tseu . But he was also a journalist and translator, including Voltaire, Hemingway or Lao-Tze. Outre le prix Nobel, il recut de nombreux prix dont le prix international de la paix en 1952 . Besides the Nobel Prize, he received numerous awards including the international price of peace in 1952.

Laxness spent his childhood in the farm of his father in the town of Laxnes, which it will derive later his pen name. It publishes at seventeen his first novel, Children and Nature. He makes many trips across Europe (Scandinavia, Germany, France, England, Italy …) He converted to Catholicism in 1923 and added its name Kiljan name in honor of the Irish saint. He studied theology in Italy and then to the monastery of Clairvaux. His readings of surrealism and Proust influence Major weaver Kashmir (1927), his first major novel. He then travel to the United States and Canada, and befriended the novelist Upton Sinclair. He then abandoned Catholicism and embraced the theories of Communism. In 1930 he returned to Iceland and married. It publishes Independent People (1934) and Salka Valka (1932), which reflected his social concerns. It publishes extensive historical novels of inspiration that are considered his masterpieces: Light of the World (1934), and then the bell Iceland (1943). Laxness divorce in 1936 and remarried in 1945 with a young woman of 21 years. During his travels in the USSR, Laxness became aware of the mistakes of Stalinism and turned away from communism. Paradise found (1960) again evokes tenderness and irony with the difficult search for spirituality. Suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, it is placed in a retirement home in 1995 and died in 1998. His work includes more than 60 books, novels, stories and plays. But he was also a journalist and translator, including Voltaire, Hemingway or Lao-Tze. Besides the Nobel Prize, he received numerous awards including the international price of peace in 1952.

Works:

Works in Icelandic:

  • Barn natturunnar : Astarsaga – Reykjavik : Halldor Kiljan Laxness, 1919

  • Nokkrar sogur – Reykjavik : Isafoldarprentsmidja, 1923

  • Undir Helgahnuk – Reykjavik: Bokaverslun Ars?ls Arnasonar, 1924

  • Ka?olsk vi?horf : Svar gegn arasum – Reykjavik : Bokaverslun Ars?ls Arnasonar, 1925

  • Vefarinn mikli fra Kasmir – Reykjavik : Halldor Kiljan Laxness, 1927

  • Al?y?ubokin – Reykjavik : Jafnadarmannafelag Islands, 1929

  • Kv?dakver – Reykjavik : Acta, 1930

  • u vinvi?ur hreini : Saga ur fl?darmalinu – Reykjavik: Menningarsjodur, 1931 – (Salka Valka; 1)

  • Fuglinn i fjorunni : Politisk astarsaga – Reykjavik : Menningarsjodur, 1932 – (Salka Valka; 2)

  • I Austurvegi – Reykjavik: Sovetvinafelag Islands, 1933

  • Fotatak manna : Sjo ??ttir – Akureyri : ?orsteinn M. Jonsson, 1933

  • Sjalfst?tt folk : Hetjusaga – Reykjavik : E. P. Briem, 1934 – 2 vol.

  • Straumrof : Sjonleikur – Reykjavik : Heimskringla, 1934

  • Daglei? a fjollum : Greinar – Reykjavik : Heimskringla, 1937

  • Ljos heimsins – Reykjavik: Heimskringla, 1937 – Heimsljos; 1)

  • Holl sumarlandsins.– Reykjavik: Heimskringla, 1938 – (Heimsljos; 2)

  • Hus skaldsins – Reykjavik: Heimskringla, 1938 – (Heimsljos; 3)

  • Gerska ?vintyri? : Minnisblod – Reykjavik : Heimskringla, 1938

  • Fegurd himinsins – Reykjavik: Heimskringla, 1940 – (Heimsljos; 4)

  • Sjo toframenn : ??ttir – Reykjavik : Heimskringla, 1942

  • Vettvangur dagsins : Ritgerdir – Reykjavik : Heimskringla, 1942

  • Islandsklukkan – Reykjavik: Helgafell, 1943 – (Islandsklukkan; 1)

  • Hid ljosa man – Reykjavik: Helgafell, 1944 – (Islandsklukkan; 2)

  • Eldur i Kaupinhafn – Reykjavik: Helgafell, 1946 – (Islandsklukkan; 3)

  • Sjalfsag?ir hlutir : Ritgerdir – Reykjavik : Helgafell, 1946

  • Atomsto?in – Reykjavik : Helgafell, 1948

  • Kv?dakver – [Enl. Ed.] – Reykjavik: Helgafell, 1949

  • Sn?fri?ur Islandssol – Reykjavik : Helgafell, 1950

  • Reisubokarkorn – Reykjavik : Helgafell, 1950

  • Salka Valka – [New. ed. in one vol.] – Reykjavik : Helgafell, 1951

  • Gerpla – Reykjavik: Helgafell, 1952

  • Islandsklukkan – [New. ed. in one vol.]. – Reykjavik : Helgafell, 1952

  • Sjalfst?tt folk : Hetjusaga – [New. ed. in one vol.] – Reykjavik : Helgafell, 1952

  • Heiman eg for : Sjalfsmynd ?skumanns – Reykjavik : Helgafell, 1952

  • ?ttir – Reykjavik : Helgafell, 1954

  • Silfurtungli? : Sjonleikur i fjorum ?attum – Reykjavik : Helgafell, 1954

  • Heimsljos – [2. ed.] – Reykjavik : Helgafell, 1955

  • Dagur i senn : R?da og rit – Reykjavik : Helgafell, 1955

  • Heimsljos – [New. ed. in one vol.] – Reykjavik : Helgafell, 1955

  • Brekkukotsannall – Reykjavik : Helgafell, 1957

  • Gjorningabok – Reykjavik : Helgafell, 1959

  • Paradisarheimt – Reykjavik : Helgafell, 1960

  • Strompleikurinn : Gamanleikur i ?rem ?attum – Reykjavik : Helgafell, 1961

  • Prjonastofan Solin : Gamanleikur i ?remur ?attum – Reykjavik : Helgafell, 1962

  • Skaldatimi – Reykjavik : Helgafell, 1963

  • Sjostafakveri? – Reykjavik : Helgafell, 1964

  • Upphaf mannu?arstefnu : Ritgerdir – Reykjavik : Helgafell, 1965

  • Dufnaveislan : Skemtunarleikur i fimm ?attum – Reykjavik : Helgafell, 1966

  • Islendingaspjall – Reykjavik : Helgafell, 1967

  • Kristnihald undir Jokli – Reykjavik : Helgafell, 1968

  • Vinlandspunktar – Reykjavik : Helgafell, 1969

  • Innansveitarkronika – Reykjavik : Helgafell, 1970

  • Yfirskyg?ir sta?ir : Ymsar athuganir – Reykjavik : Helgafell, 1971

  • Gu?sgjafa?ula – Reykjavik : Helgafell, 1972

  • jo?hati?arrolla – Reykjavik : Helgafell, 1974

  • I tuninu heima – Reykjavik : Helgafell, 1975

  • Ungur eg var – Reykjavik : Helgafell, 1976

  • Seiseiju, mikil oskop – Reykjavik : Helgafell, 1977

  • Sjomeistarasagan – Reykjavik : Helgafell, 1978

  • Grikklandsari? – Reykjavik : Helgafell, 1980

  • Vi? heygar?shorni? – Reykjavik : Helgafell, 1981

  • Og arin li?a – Reykjavik : Helgafell, 1984

  • Af menningarastandi – Reykjavik : Vaka-Helgafell, 1986

  • Dagar hja munkum – Reykjavik : Vaka-Helgafell, 1987

Translations into English:

  • Salka Valka : a Novel of Iceland / translated from Danish into English by F. H. Lyon – London : Allen & Unwin, 1936

  • Independent People : An Epic / translated by J. A. Thompson – London : Allen & Unwin, 1945

  • The Honour of the House / translated by Kenneth G. Chapman – Reykjavik : Helgafell, 1959

  • World Light / translated by Magnus Magnusson.– Madison : University of Wisconsin Press, 1969

  • The Happy Warriors / translated by Katherine John – London : Methuen, 1958

  • The Atom Station / translated by Magnus Magnusson – London : Methuen, 1961

  • Paradise Reclaimed / translated by Magnus Magnusson.– London : Methuen, 1962

  • The Fish Can Sing / translated by Magnus Magnusson – London : Methuen, 1966

  • Christianity at Glacier / translated by Magnus Magnusson – Reykjavik : Helgafell, 1972 – Republ. as Under the Glacier 1990, 2005

  • A Quire of Seven / translated by Alan Boucher – Reykjavik : Iceland Review, 1974

  • The Bread of Life / translated by Magnus Magnusson – Reykjavik : Vaka-Helgafell, 1987

  • Iceland’s Bell / translated from the Icelandic by Philip Roughton ; introduction by Adam Haslett – New York : Vintage, 2003

Literature (a selection):

  • Hallberg, Peter, Den store vavaren : en studie i Laxness’ ungdomsdiktning – Stockholm : Raben & Sjogren, 1954

  • Eskeland, Ivar, Halldor Kiljan Laxness : menneske og motiv – Oslo, 1955

  • Hallberg, Peter, Halldor Laxness / transl. by Rory McTurk – New York : Twayne, 1971

  • Sjo erindri : um Halldor Laxness / Sveinn Skorri Hoskuldsson sa um utgafuna – Reykjavik : Helgafell, 1973

  • Olafur Ragnarsson, & Valger?ur Benediktsdottir, Lifsmyndir skalds : ?viferill Halldors Laxness i myndum og mali – Reykjavik : Vaka-Helgafell, 1992

  • Gu?run Ingolfsdottir, & Margret Gu?mundsdottir, Lykilbok a? fjorum skaldsogum eftir Halldor Laxness : Brekkukotsannall, Islandsklukkan, Salka Valka, Vefarinn mikli fra Kasmir – Reykjavik : Vaka-Helgafell, 1997

  • N?rmynd af Nobelsskaldi : Halldor Kiljan Laxness i augum samtimamanna / ritstjori: Jon Hjaltason. Akureyri : Holar, 2000

  • Ekkert or? er skripi ef ?a? stendur a rettum sta? : um aevi og verk Halldors Laxness / Ritstjori: Jon Olafsson – Reykjavik : Hugvisindastofnun Haskola Islands, 2002

  • Gunnar Kristjansson, Fjallrae?ufolki? : um personur i skaldsogum Halldors Laxness – Reykjavik : Mal og menning, 2002

  • Olafur Ragnarsson, Halldor Laxness : lif i skaldskap – Reykjavik : Vaka Helgafell, 2002

  • Halldor Gu?mundsson, Halldor Laxness : aevisaga – Reykjavik : JPV, 2004

Awards:

1955: Nobel Prize in Literature.

Presentation Speech:

Presentation Speech by E. Wessen, Member of the Swedish Academy.

Iceland is the cradle of narrative art here in the North. This is ultimately due to the peculiar nature and development of the Icelandic community. In Iceland there were no conditions for the rise of the class society elsewhere so characteristic of the Middle Ages, with its sharp contrast between Church and people, between the learned and the peasants. There books were not, as in other lands, the privilege of a few priests versed in Latin. Even in the Middle Ages literacy was far more widespread among the common people in Iceland than in other parts of Europe. This fact created the basic conditions for the writing down in the native tongue of the old vernacular poetry which, in the rest of northern Europe, our country included, was despised and forgotten.

So it came about that the poor little nation on its remote island created world literature, producing prose tales which the other European countries were unable to match for hundreds of years. Snorre and the sagas will always stand out as peaks in the art of historical narrative, as models of style in their perspicuity, clarity, and vigour. The Icelandic saga, very largely anonymous, is the product of a whole nation’s literary talent and independent creative power.

In Iceland the saga has always been held in great honour. To the Icelanders themselves it has given consolation and strength during dark centuries of poverty and hardship. To this very day Iceland stands out as the literary nation of the North par excellence, in relation to its population and its resources.

Enormous power is necessary to renew in our time a narrative art which has such traditions. In the book which Halldor Laxness has written about the peasant poet Olafur Ljosvikingur, he especially touches on the problems and the mission of poetry, making one of the characters say: “That poem is good which reaches the heart of the people. There is no other criterion”. But in order to reach the people’s heart, literary skill alone, however great, is not enough; the ability to depict events and exploits is not enough. If literature is to be a “light of the world”, it must strive to give a true picture of human life and conditions. That goal runs like a continuous thread through most of what Halldor Laxness has written. And as he has an extraordinarily fine sense of the concrete things of human life and, at the same time, an inexhaustible gift of storytelling, he has come to rank as his people’s greatest writer of the present age.

One of the most remarkable testimonies of the conflicts in modern cultural life – not only in Iceland but in the whole of the West – is Laxness’s early work, Vefarinn mikli fra Kasmir (The Great Weaver from Kashmir), 1927. Despite a certain youthful immaturity, it carries weight as a contemporary document and as a personal confession. The main character is a young Icelander, a writer with an artistic temperament, who, during a roving life in Europe, experiences to the full the chaotic perplexity following the First World War. Like Hans Alienus at one time, he tries to get his bearings and to find a firm footing in life – but what a difference in situation! Far more than a generation in time separates them. On the one hand, peace, unshakable faith in progress, dreams of beauty; on the other, a shattered, bleeding world, moral laxity, anguish, and impotence. Steinn Ellioi finally throws himself into the arms of the Catholic Church. Since Strindberg, few books in the literature of northern Europe have bared inner conflicts with such uncompromising candour and shown how the indi vidual comes to terms with the forces of the age.

Halldor Laxness did not attain artistic balance until, toward the end of the twenties, he returned to Iceland and found his calling as bard of the Icelandic people. All his important books have Icelandic themes.

He is an excellent painter of Icelandic scenery and settings. Yet this is not what he has conceived as his chief mission. “Compassion is the source of the highest poetry. Compassion with Asta Sollilja on earth”, he says in one of his best books. Art must be supported by sympathy and love for humanity; otherwise it is worth very little. And a social passion underlies everything Halldor Laxness has written. His personal championship of contemporary social and political questions is always very strong, sometimes so strong that it threatens to hamper the artistic side of his work. His safeguard then is the astringent humour which enables him to see even people he dislikes in a redeeming light, and which also permits him to gaze far down into the labyrinths of the human soul.

Individual people and their destinies always move us most deeply in Halldor Laxness’s novels. Against the dark background of poverty, strikes, and strife in the little Icelandic fishing village, the shining, girlish figure of Salka Valka stands out, resolute, capable, and pure of heart.

Even more affecting, perhaps, is the story of Bjartur, the man with the indomitable will for freedom and independence, Geijer’s yeoman farmer in an Icelandic setting and, with monumental, epic proportions, the settler, the landnamsman of Iceland’s thousand-year-old history. Bjartur remains the same in sickness and misfortune, in poverty and starvation, in raging snowstorms and face to face with the frightening monsters of the moors, and pathetic to the last in his helplessness and his touching love for his foster daughter, Asta Sollilja.

The story of the peasant poet Olafur Ljosvikingur, Ljos heimsins (The Light of the World), 1937-40, is possibly his greatest work. It is based on the contrast between a miserable environment and the heaven-born dreams of one who is a friend and servant of beauty.

In Islandsklukkan (The Bell of Iceland), 1943-46, Laxness for the first time sets the scene in a bygone age. And he indeed succeeds in giving the atmosphere of the period both of Iceland and of Denmark. Stylistically, it is a masterpiece. But even here it is chiefly individuals and their destinies that one remembers: the wretched tatterdemalion Jon Hreggviosson; “the fair maid” Snaefriour Eydalin; and above all, the learned collector of manuscripts, Arnas Arnaeus, in whom Iceland lives more robustly than in anyone else.

Halldor Laxness has guided literary development back to common and traditional ground. That is his great achievement. He has a vivid and personal style, easy and natural, and one gets a strong impression of how well and how flexibly it serves his ends.

One more thing must be emphasized if Laxness’s position is to be properly understood. There was a time when the Icelandic authors chose another Scandinavian language for their art, not merely for economic reasons, but because they despaired of the Icelandic language as an instrument for artistic creation. Halldor Laxness has, in the field of prose, renewed the Icelandic language as an artistic means of expression for a modern content, and by his example he has given the Icelandic writers courage to use their native tongue. Broadly speaking, therein lies his greatest significance, and this is what has given him a strong and very respected position in his own land.

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