Ian McEwan Wins Halldór Laxness International Literary Prize - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Ian McEwan Wins Halldór Laxness International Literary Prize

Published April 26, 2019

Andie Fontaine
Main photo by
Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert/Getty Images

Ian McEwan, an English author whose works have been celebrated the world over, is the first winner of the new Halldór Laxness International Literary Prize, a statement to the press from the prize organisers announces.

The prize carries an award purse of €15,000 and is “awarded to internationally recognized authors for contributing to a renewal of the narrative tradition, which were the grounds for awarding Laxness himself the Nobel Prize in 1955,” the announcement states in part.

While McEwan himself was unable to attend in person when the winner was announced, he will reportedly visit Iceland in September to accept the prize. McEwan was reportedly deeply honoured, with the announcement saying, “In a video message shown at the symposium, the author said the award meant much to him and that he was looking forward to coming to Reykjavík in September to receive the prize, the city where the great Laxness was born and wrote.”

Icelanders will also be able to experience the magic and power of his writing in their own language—his new novel, Machines Like Me, will soon be published in Icelandic by the publishers Bjartur, with the translation done by Árni Óskarsson.

“Modernity permeates his works like factory smoke; not just smoke but an atmosphere, a very special sort of atmosphere, a climate,” the jury verdict states in part. “The style is deliberate, precise and clear, but also characterised by hallucinatory impressions; these are never random, however, but always grounded in the psyche of his characters. The precision of the sentences is an important factor; their cadence and clarity, the atmosphere of the prose, in short. It is apparent that the dilemma of human existence haunts this author, which he consistently responds to in novel and unexpected ways.”

On the jury were Eliza Reid, the First Lady of Iceland, Einar Már Guðmundsson, author, and Stella Soffía Jóhannesdóttir, the director of the Reykjavík International Literary Festival. The award is supported by The Prime Minister’s Office; The Ministry for Education, Science and Culture; Promote Iceland; Reykjavík International Literary Festival; Gljúfrasteinn and Forlagið, the Icelandic publisher of Laxness.

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