Icelandic literature: The Twentieth Century

The 20th cent. saw the rise of a more introspective writing, influenced by Nietzsche and the French symbolists. One group of writers, part of the Icelandic colony in Copenhagen, wrote in Danish to reach a wider public. They were led by Johann Sigurjonsson (1880–1919), a romantic dramatist. Others were the romantic novelist Gunnar Gunnarsson and the cosmopolitan dramatist Guðmundur Kamban. A neoromantic movement arose in the 1920s; it had as a leading spirit the poet, scholar, and critic Sigurdur Nordal, author of the prose poem Hel (1919). Among the neoromantics were the novelists Guðmundur Hagalin and Kristmann Guðmundsson and the lyric poets Davið Stefánsson and Stefan Sigurdsson.

With the urbanization of Iceland's population came the rise of a working class and new patterns of life and thought. Kamban and Trausti early became socialists; Hagalin turned from conservative journalism to become thoroughly identified with the new socialist middle class. The most noted writer of this period was the Nobel laureate Halldor K. Laxness. The establishment of British and American bases in Iceland during World War II introduced foreign literary influence, and Icelandic independence (1944) increased nationalist and patriotic emphasis. In the 1950s the introspective atom poets, including Stefan H. Grimsson and Hannes Sigfursson, won acclaim. Major writers of the late 20th cent. include Agnar Thórðarson, Elias Mar, Oddur Björnsson, Hannes Pétursson, and Jökull Jakobsson.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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