Halldór Kiljan Laxness was born in 1902 in Reykjavik but brought up in the countryside. From the age of 17, he travelled and lived abroad in the European continent, and was particularly influenced by trends there, such as Expressionism. During his twenties, he went through a religious period, where he converted to Catholicism, and wrote about his spiritual experiences in his work; most notably his book Under the Holy Mountain, 1924. After a visit to the US, he became interested in Socialism, and there is a noticeable shift in his later writing, which is influenced by his socialist viewpoint.
Laxness’s most famous work are his novels written in the 1930s, dealing with the people of Iceland. Þú vínviður hreini, 1931, and Fuglinn í fjörunni, 1932, (both translated as Salka Valka), tell the story of a poor fisher girl; Sjálfstætt fólk (Independent People), 1934-35, speaks of the experiences of small farmers, and Ljós heimsins (The Light of the World), 1937-40, whose hero is an Icelandic folk poet. Laxness’s later works were grand historical sagas: Íslandsklukkan (The Bell of Iceland), 1943-46, Gerpla (The Happy Warriors), 1952, and Paradísarheimt (Paradise Reclaimed), 1960.