We have just returned from a long weekend in Iceland, where we went to see the Northern Lights (yes, we did – twice). It was perfect timing, as the snow was still around enough to make the scenery bleak but beautiful and not too much to prevent us from driving, though it snowed heavily the day we left, making driving back to the airport something of an adventure. During the day we managed to see a few sights, including Halldór Laxness‘ house. Laxness was the only Icelandic author to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, so he is still very much revered in Iceland. The house, as you can see from the photo on the left is a medium-sized farmhouse, overlooking the farm where he grew up – Laxness farm, from where he took his pseudonym. Inside, it reminded us somewhat of Henry Moore’s house in Perry Green, with its 1950s style and its collection of artefacts from around the world. However, one big difference was the paintings on the walls. If you look at the photos on the website, you will see a few (descriptions only in Icelandic). Laxness was very interested in contemporary Icelandic and Danish art and knew many of the painters. He had paintings by Svavar Guðnason, Nína Tryggvadóttir, Johannes Sveinsson Kjarval, Asger Jorn and others.
The photo to the right shows the view from Laxness’ bedroom window (Laxness farm is concealed by the fir tree to the left). The view all around the house was magnificent. The house is about three miles outside Mosfellsbær, which is about seven miles from Reykjavik but, apart from Laxness farm in the distant and the road outside, which goes from Reykjavik to Þingvellir, there is little sign of civilisation. Laxness did travel a lot, particularly when he became famous, so he did not spend all his time there but he loved to come back and looking at that view, you can see why. However, he did have a swimming pool and, as you can from the wesbite, he drove a Jaguar. (It is no longer there or, rather, was not when we were there, not least because the driveway was an ice rink and we had difficulty getting to the front door. Health and Safety in the UK would have had a fit.) I have read five of his novels, all well worth reading, and there are others available in English and other European languages. However, he wrote over sixty works and many have not been translated. If you have not read him, his books are easy to obtainin English.