This Day In Icelandic History: Halldór Laxness’ The Atom Station Sells Out In One Day - The Reykjavik Grapevine

This Day In Icelandic History: Halldór Laxness’ The Atom Station Sells Out In One Day

This Day In Icelandic History: Halldór Laxness’ The Atom Station Sells Out In One Day

Published March 21, 2018

Long before there was Björk, there was Iceland’s original pop star, Halldór Laxness. One of the most misunderstood Icelandic authors in the history of literature (e.g. Bjartur from Independent People is not the hero of the story), his work consistently plays with the contrast and tension between Icelanders in the countryside and those in Reykjavík. The Atom Station is a great example of this.

The book tells the story of Ugla, a country girl from up north, who moves to Reykjavík to work for the Prime Minister and experiences a kind of culture shock. She sees troops walking the streets, experiences the sneering snobbishness of Reykjavíkings, and begins to feel alienated from her own country, leading her down the road to radicalism.

The book was a crowning achievement. The same day it was put on the shelves, March 21, 1948, it completely sold out. This was not only a first in the history of Icelandic literature; it was almost unheard of for any author, in any country, to receive this kind of rock star reception. How many pop stars can you say sold out all copies of their album the same day it was released? And this was some seven years before Laxness even won the Nobel Prize.

Laxness would blaze a trail in the literary world from this point on, and was arguably the impetus for worldwide interest in the country. But long before the rest of the world knew him, he was still absolutely killing it.

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