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The Islander

On sale

7th August 2008

Price: £30

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Selected: Hardcover / ISBN-13: 9781847242846

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“An enthralling, heartening study of a man of unflagging interest in life” Independent

“Provides readers of English with a perfect introduction to the life and works of an outstanding writer, one whom everyone should read” Irish Times

A strong and memorable portrayal of a man who fought heroically to write for the world, but in one of its rarest languages. Halldór Laxness won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1955. During his life, which spanned nearly the entire century, he not only wrote sixty books, but also became an active participant in Europe’s idealistic debates and struggles.

In the 1930s, Laxness became attracted to Soviet communism. He travelled widely in the Soviet Bloc and, despite witnessing some atrocities, remained a defender of communism until the 1960s. But his political leanings never dominated his work. Laxness continually sought to divulge the world of beauty that lurks beneath the everyday, ensuring his artistry remained a sanctuary of humanism and reflection.

In this biography, Guðmundsson has been granted access to unique material by Laxness’ family. As a result, the interrelationships between Laxness’ personal life, his politics and his career are meticulously examined. What emerges is a grand description of a fascinating personality in which the manifold conflicts of the 20th century are mirrored.

“Laxness is a writer of the first degree, a writer I dreamed of coming close to” BORIS PASTERNAK, 1960


“When in a bad mood I have picked one of your books. And there the pure and deep sound has welcomed me, strong and charming from the first page” KAREN BLIXEN in an open letter to Laxness in 1952


Translated from Icelandic by Philip Roughton

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Reviews

Paul Binding, Independent
Gudmundsson, as judicious in his treatment of Laxness's Stalinism as of his distant relationships with his two wives, has written an enthralling, heartening study of a man of unflagging interest in life.
Sunday Herald
The author's life is vividly recounted . . . detailed chapters and powerful quotes allow for an honest assessment of the author's career.
Eilis Ni Dhubhne, Irish Times
Gudmundsson interweaves the diverting story of Laxness's life with critical commentary on his work in the manner of the best literary biographies. His tone is appealing, intimate and understanding but far from hagiographical and not averse to critical irony . . . he conveys a vivid sense of Laxness's personality, in all its complexity and ambivalence. The man comes to life in the pages of the work - something that does not always happen, even in the best biographies . . . the translation of this exemplary biography in English is very welcome. It provides readers of English with a perfect introduction to the life and works of an outstanding writer, one whom everyone should read
J. M. Coetzee
I have read the biography with great interest and admiration. I am thoroughly convinced by Gudmundsson's portrayal of Laxness.
Salvatore Scibona, New Yorker
The biography still provides a lively soup-to-nuts account, including the dizzying sequence of travels Laxness began after he left home
Ruth Margalit, New York Review of Books
A thoroughly researched biography