- (1889-1975)An Icelandic novelist, short story writer, playwright, and poet, Gunnarsson was born in Iceland but moved to Denmark at the age of 18. Before moving to Denmark, Gunnarsson published two slender volumes of poetry in Icelandic and one in Danish; the loss of his mother at the age of seven is an important theme in his poems. While living in Denmark, Gunnarsson, who married a Danish woman, was a very prolific and successful novelist who was especially well regarded in Germany. He returned to Iceland shortly before the German attack on Denmark on 9 April 1940, during World War II.Gunnarsson's first significant literary success was a tetralogy entitled Borgslægtens Historie (1912-1914; tr. Guest the One-Eyed, 1920), which dealt with a long period of Icelandic history. The three novels Livets strand (1915; The Shore of Life), Varg i Veum (1917; A Wolf in the Temple), and Salige er de enfoldige (1920; tr. Seven Days Darkness, 1930) all demonstrate how fine a line there is between sanity and madness. Edbrødre (1918; tr. The Sworn Brothers, 1920) tells about the earliest settlement of Iceland.Gunnarsson's greatest literary achievement is an autobiographical series of novels in five volumes, collectively known as Kirken paa Bjerget (1923-1928; tr. as Ships in the Sky and The Night and the Dream, 1938). His protagonist, Uggi, grows up in Gunnarsson's home district, then loses his mother, publishes two pamphlets of poetry, travels to Denmark, and finds success as a writer. After his success with this series, Gunnarsson wrote a number of historical novels set in Iceland. The most important one is Svartfugl (1929; tr. The Black Cliffs, 1967), which tells the story of a double murder and the court case that followed. Of Gunnarsson's many other novels, volumes of short stories, and plays, the most significant is the novel Advent (1937; tr. The Good Shepherd, 1940), in which the protagonist, a farmer named Benedikt, struggles to save his sheep that have gotten lost in the mountains during a snowstorm.
Historical Dictionary of Scandinavian Literature and Theater. Jan Sjavik. 2006.
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