Icelandic writer Halldór Kiljan Laxness was the first and only citizen of Iceland to receive a Nobel Prize for Literature. His dark and politically charged essays chronicling the ills of religious Institutions and Western capitalism have resulted in both his notoriety and his blacklisting from the United States. More importantly perhaps, their relevance still lingers today argues Lindsay Parnell.
Iceland’s most famous writer was born Halldór Guðjónsson, but wrote under the pseudonym Halldór Kiljan Laxness following his Catholic baptism. Winner of the 1955 Nobel Prize for Literature, Halldór Kiljan Laxness’ literary legacy has become as notorious as it is inspiring. Born in Reykjavik in 1902, Laxness would become a brilliant author of short fiction, poetry, journalism and stage plays. As a man of great intellect, it was in literature that he found a platform to nurture his creativity. Very much influenced by Sinclair Lewis and Ernest Hemingway, as well as the psychoanalytical research of Sigmund Freud, the works of Laxness encompass an exploration and subsequent interrogating dialogue with the humanities.
Laxness’ first publication came at age fourteen in the form of a journalistic piece featured in his local newspaper. Although he lacked a formal academic education, his first full-length novel Barn náttúrunnar – along with its English translation Child of Nature – was published when he was just seventeen years old. It was around this time that the author began to travel widely. His arrival in Luxembourg marked the beginning of a deeply religious and personal journey, and in fact the 1920s constituted a time of great spiritual enlightenment for the writer. It was in Luxembourg that he joined an order of monks and was baptized in the Catholic Church. Laxness’ time spent at Abbaya St. Maurice et St. Maur was filled with a devout study of French, philosophy, Latin and theology. The author rigorously read literature and religious doctrine, which then largely informed the critically structured aspect of his own work.
A visit to America in the late 1920s transformed Laxness’ political consciousness and affiliation. After befriending fellow writer Upton Sinclair, he remained there while translating Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms into his native Icelandic, and exploring a newly found fascination for socialism. It was his intense attraction to the ideologies of the Socialist party that would inspire Laxness’ work Alþydubókin, a collection of darkly sardonic political essays published in 1929. However, a decade later, Laxness found himself blacklisted in the United States because of his writings – among many other communist and socialist sympathizers. This black list famously contained a who’s who among the Hollywood stars, writers, artists and musicians. Laxness’ blacklisting is essentially attributed to the social convictions he articulated in the critically acclaimed novel Atómstöðin, (The Atom Station).
Atómstöðin was published in 1948. Set in the backdrop of Iceland’s dwindling independence from the British and American military occupation during World War II, Atómstöðin tells the story of a young Icelandic country girl who moves to the capital in order to work for a government official. In this groundbreaking novel, the character’s brutal introduction to the corrupted political and military worlds parallels her own journey of self-discovery.
Laxness’ literary career is largely defined by his controversial political convictions. His work is a satirical deconstruction of the conservative Christian institutions and of the greed-fuelled capitalism of the West. Although written half-a-century ago, these texts still hold a painstaking political relevance today.
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.