Halldór Kiljan Guðjónsson, who later took up the name Halldór Kiljan Laxness, was of farming stock, born on April 23, 1902, in Reykjavík. In 1905 the family moved to a small farm near the city Laxnes in Mosfellssveit (now Mosfellsbær), where the boy grew up. He was constantly writing as a child, and at the age of seventeen, he made his debut as a novelist with a neoromantic love story, Barn náttúrunnar (1919; child of nature). In the same year, he devoted himself to writing and made his first journey abroad. During the following decade, Laxness traveled widely in Europe and America, steeping himself in contemporary literature and culture in his search for ideological basis and personal style. In 1922-1923, he stayed at the Benedictine monastery of Saint Maurice de Clervaux in Luxembourg, where he was converted to Roman Catholicism, and in 1923-1924, he studied at a Jesuit-run school in England with the intention of taking holy orders.
He made his breakthrough as a writer with the revolutionary novel Vefarinn mikli frá Kasmír (1927; the great weaver of Kashmir), a semiautobiographical work that portrays a young man and his spiritual turmoil. This novel, which bears the imprint of expressionism and Symbolism, marks the beginning of modernism in Icelandic literature.
In 1927-1929, Laxness stayed in the United States, learning about the cinema and writing in Hollywood. In the United States, he abandoned the Roman...
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