Halldór Laxness’ Birthday Celebrated

Vala Hafstað

Today is the birthday of writer Halldór Kiljan Laxness (1902-1998), Iceland’s only Nobel laureate.

A hundred years ago today, his first novel , Barn náttúrunnar (meaning Nature’s Child), a love story, was published, on the author’s 17th birthday. To celebrate this, an exhibition on Halldór and his work opens at Þjóðarbókhlaðan National Library today at 4:30 pm. The exhibition explores what shaped the young, ambitious writer, such as his family, the musical environment, poetry on the farm where he grew up, and society in general.

Halldór’s first novel received mixed reviews, but in his preface to its second edition, he wrote:

“A close friend I highly respect told me not long ago that Barn náttúrunnar, my first book, written in 1918, is all at once a summary, conclusion and the sum of everything I have since written – that my later books are simply a report of the conclusions I came to in Barn náttúrunnar. – Now that I have been persuaded to skim the book for the first time since I wrote it at the age of 16, I have discovered it to be my best book, because it contains the sound of childhood. It is my ode to the days of childhood.”

A manuscript of Barn náttúrunnar, although not handwritten, will be on display at the exhibition with the author’s corrections. According to his granddaughter Auður Jónsdóttir, who was interviewed on RÚV radio Rás 1 this morning, Halldór used to spend his time writing, ever since he was a child, while all other people on the farm Laxnes were expected to take part in traditional farm work outdoors.

Halldór became a very prolific and influential writer. Among his best known novels is Sjálfstætt fólk (Independent People), Salka Valka and Íslandsklukkan (Iceland’s Bell). In 1955, Halldór was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.

His books have been translated into numerous languages and continue to be published abroad. Independent People remains among bestsellers in Icelandic bookstores.

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