Gunnar Gunnarsson is one of Iceland’s most esteemed writers. His works are full of references to world literature, to the past and to his present time. One of his specialties is the description of nature. Icelandic artists and writers still seek inspiration in his works today. Writers like Jón Kalmann Stefánsson have been inspired by Advent (The Good Shepherd):

...“Gunnarsson’s Advent style is so skillful – simultaneously light and polished – that he manages to communicate everything without our even noticing. All he does is simply create an atmosphere for us to feel, to inhale – to experience for ourselves.”

Gunnar was the first Icelander to turn to creative writing as a profession and the first one to be on the bestseller lists. Thus he was a role model for writers such as Halldór Laxness, since he proved that contemporary Icelandic literature could be successful in mainland Europe. Even though Gunnar Gunnarsson lived in Denmark for more than 30 years he always saw himself as an Icelandic writer.


Gunnar Gunnarsson was born on May 18, 1889, at Valþjófsstaður in Fljótsdalur Valley, the next farm to Skriðuklaustur. Aged seven, he moved with his parents to the farm Ljótsstaðir in Vopnafjörður where his mother died the following year. While still young Gunnar dreamed of becoming a writer and in 1906 his first books were published, small collections of poems. As the poor son of a peasant, he left for Denmark at the age of eighteen years for his education. Instead of returning home after two winters at the Folk High School in Askov he decided to make his dream come true.


Still, fame did not arrive easily. He lived for a time in poverty in Århus and Copenhagen, reading and writing to develop his talents. This struggle bore fruit. In spring 1912 Gunnar signed a contract with Gyldendal publishing house. The foundations of his career were laid’ and the young writer was able to marry his love, Franzisca.

By his thirties, Gunnar’s works had made him famous throughout Denmark. A major film was produced from his first novel, Guest the One-Eyed, and translations of his books started to appear in languages other than Danish and Icelandic. The media of the time discussed Gunnarsson for the Nobel Prize in literature, and he was in fact nominated for it. Gunnarsson figured prominently in the Danish press around this time, owing not only to his own fiction but also partly to his diligent efforts to have Danish translations published of the Icelandic sagas. Another factor was his open support of “Scandinavianism”, whereby Gunnarsson felt that the ideal solution for the Nordic countries was to unite in a single democracy.


In 1911 Gunnar Gunnarsson met his future spouse, Franzisca Antonia Josephine Jörgensen, from Fredericia, Jutland. Her father was a blacksmith and her mother from noble lineage in Germany. Franzisca was born on April 4, 1891, one of many siblings. One of her sisters also married an Icelandic artist, the sculptor Einar Jónsson. Gunnar and Franzisca had two sons, Gunnar junior in 1914 and Úlfur in 1919. During the thirties Gunnar had a love affair with another woman, Ruth Lange, and his third son Grímur was born. That was hard for Franzisca but their marriage did not break down and she followed her husband to Iceland and died in Reykjavík October 22, 1976.


Though Gunnar wrote his stories in Danish, he always set them in the native land that was constantly in his thoughts. In 1939, he had a mansion built as his family home on the farm Skriðuklaustur. The German architect Fritz Höger, a friend of the author’s, designed the mansion as well as other buildings planned for the property, most of which were related to farming but were in fact never built. The mansion, however, remains a monument to the lofty intentions Gunnarsson had when returning to Iceland after achieving fame during his 30 years in Denmark.


Gunnar’s last novels appeared in the 1950s, and he devoted his remaining years to translating into Icelandic his own works, which until then were only available in translations by others. Gunnar died on November 21, 1975 and Franzisca the following year. Their graves are on Viðey island by Reykjavík.


His works

Gunnar Gunnarsson's reputation and talent are immortalised, however, as his books include true and lasting classics of world literature. He authored some 20 novels, a myriad of short stories, several plays and considerable poetry, in addition to newspaper articles on various issues. Works by him have been published in around 20 languages, with Advent appearing in the greatest number of translations and copies.

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Gunnar Gunnarsson's first books were published in 1906 when he was only 18 years old. Over the next few decades, his books were published in many languages ​​and his work still is published today.

This list provides an overview of his work. Preliminary versions are listed by year of publication and versions of their translations are listed below.

Vorljóð, Akureyri
Vorljóð. Akureyri : [s.n.], 1906
Móðurminning, Akureyri
Móðurminning. Akureyri : [s.n.], 1906
Kongesøn, København
Konungssonur, Reykjavík, 1918
Der Königssohn, Leipzig, 1932
Koningszoon, ’sGravenhage, 1943
Digte, København
Digte. København : V. Pios Boghandel, 1911
Sögur, Reykjavík
Sögur. Reykjavík : [s.n.], 1912
Ormarr Ørlygsson (Af Borgslægtens Historie), København
Ormarr Örlygsson (Borgarættin),   Reykjavík, 1915
Ormarr Ørlygsson, Utrecht, 1915
Borgsläkten (I), Stockholm, 1915
Guest the One-Eyed, London, 1920
Guest the One-Eyed, New York, 1921
Die Leute auf Borg (I), München, 1927
Saga Islandzka (I), Warszawa, 1930
Ljudje na Borgu, Ljubljana, 1934
Rod na Borgu (I), v. Praze, 1935
Borgin suvun taru, Helsinki, 1938
Borgu dzimta, Riga, 1938
Borgslektens historie (I), Oslo, 1939
Kopogjatok és Bebocsátást Nyertek, Budapest, 1944
La Famiglia di Borg, Firenze, 1945
Erkardlerit Borgimiut okalugtuarissaunerat okalugtualiak, K'ekertarssuak, 1957
Rod na Borgu, Bratislava, 1970
Borgi Rahvas. Toronto : Orto, 1961
  Borgarættin kom út í 4. bindum í Danmörku, Hollandi og á Íslandi, en 1.-2. bindum annarsstaðar.
Den danske Fru paa Hof (Af Borgslægtens Historie), København
Danska frúin á Hofi (Borgarættin), Reykjavík, 1915
Borgsläkten (II), Stockholm, 1915
De Deensche Vrouw, Utrecht, 1916
Ludzie z Borg (I), Warszawa, 1930
Rod na Borgu (II), v. Praze, 1936
Borgslektens historie (II), Oslo, 1939
Den danske Frue paa Hof. København ; Kristiania : Gyldendal, 1913
Gest den enøjede (Af Borgslægtens Historie), København
Silmäpuoli vaeltaja, Helsinki, 1914
De Zwerver, Utrecht, 1917
Gestur eineygði (Borgarættin), Reykjavík, 1918
Die Leute auf Borg (II), München, 1927
Borgarættin. Reykjavík : Helgafell, 1958. Myndskreytt af Gunnari yngri.
Den unge Ørn (Af Borgslægtens Historie), København
Örninn ungi (Borgarættin), Reykjavík, 1918
De Jonge Adelaar, Utrecht, 1919
Den unge Ørn. København ; Kristiania : Gyldendal, 1914
Livets Strand, København
Strönd lífsins, Reykjavík 1917
's Levens Strand, Utrecht, 1919
Strand des Lebens, Berlin, 1929
Elämän ranta, Porvoo, 1929
Dzives krasts, Riga, 1941
Strand des Lebens. Hamburg : Hoffmann und Campe, 1949
Varg i Veum, København
Vargur í véum, Reykjavík, 1917
De Wolf in het Heiligdom, Utrecht, 1920
Der Geächtete, Berlin, 1928
Izstumtais, Riga, 1932
Vargur í Vjeum. Reykjavík : Þorsteinn Gíslason, 1917
Drengen, København
De Jongen, Utrecht, 1918
Drengurinn, Reykjavík, 1920
Der Knabe, Leipzig, 1933
Drengurinn. Reykjavík : Þorsteinn Gíslason, 1920
Smaa historier, København
Smaa historier. Kjøbenhavn : Gyldendal ; Kristiania : Nordisk forlag, 1916
Smaa skuespil, København
Smaa skuespil. København ; Kristiania : Gyldendal, 1917
Edbrødre, København
Fóstbræður, Kaupmannahöfn, 1919
Fosterbröder, Stockholm, 1919
The Sworn Brothers, London, 1920
The Sworn Brothers, New York, 1921
De Bondgenooten, Utrecht, 1921
Valaveljet, Helsingissä, 1925
Die Eidbrüder, München, 1934
Pokrevní Bratri, Praha, 1946
Zvēresta brāļi, Riga, 1992
Frères jurés, Paris, 1999
Fréres jurés. [Paris] : Fayard, c2000
Smaa historier - Ny samling, København
Smaa historier - Ny samling. Köbenhavn : Gyldendal, 1917
Salige er de enfoldige, København
Sælir eru einfaldir, Reykjavík, 1920
Saliga äro de enfaldiga, Stockholm, 1921
Autuaita ovat yksinkertaiset, Porvoossa, 1921
Der Hass des Pall Einarsson, Berlin, 1921
Zalig zijn de Armen van Geest, Utrecht, 1923
Sieben Tage Finsternis, Berlin, 1927
Siedem dni Ciemnosci, Warszawa, 1930
Seven Days' Darkness, New York, 1930
Seven Days' Darkness, London, 1931
Sedm dní Temnoty, v. Praze, 1934
Ondsad on Lihtsameelsed, Tartu, 1937
A Vulkán Arnyékában, Budapest, 1939
Sælir eru einfaldir. Reykjavík : Þorsteinn Gíslason, 1920
Ringen, København
Ringen. København [etc.] : Gyldendal, 1921
Dyret med Glorien, København
Dýrið með dýrðarljómann, Reykjavík, 1922
Dýrið með dýrðarljómann - sjónleikur í ljóðum. Reykjavík : Þorsteinn Gíslason, 1922
Leg med Straa (Kirken på Bjerget), København
Från barnaåren, Stockholm, 1924
De Jeugd van Uggi Greipsson, Utrecht, 1925
Schiffe am Himmel (I), München, 1928
Skip heiðríkjunnar (I) (Kirkjan á fjallinu I), Reykjavík, 1941
Navi sul Cielo, Milano, 1943
Leikur að stráum. Reykjavík : Ríkisútgáfa námsbóka, [1970]. Myndskreytt af Gunnari yngri.
Den glade gaard og andre historier, København
Glaðnastaðir og nágrenni, Reykjavík, 1956
Den glade gaard og andre historier. København [etc.] : Gyldendal, 1923
Skibe paa Himlen (Kirken på Bjerget), København
Schiffe am Himmel (II), München, 1928
Skepp på himlen, Stockholm, 1934
Okrety na Niebie, Warszawa, 1938
Ships in the Sky (I), London, 1938
Ships in the Sky, New York, 1938
Borgi ravhas, Tartu, 1939
Korabi po nebeto, Sofija, 1940
Skip heiðríkjunnar (II) (Kirkjan á fjallinu I), Reykjavík, 1941
Vaisseaux dans le ciel, Paris, 1942
Fjallkirkjan. Reykjavík : Mál og menning, 1997. Myndskreytingar eftir Gunnar yngri og þýðing eftir Halldór Laxness.
Natten og Drømmen  (Kirken på Bjerget), København
Nacht und Traum I, München, 1929 
The Night and the Dream, New York, 1938
The Night and the Dream, London, 1938
Zycie minelo jak sen, Warszawa, 1938
Nótt og draumur (Kirkjan á fjallinu II), Reykjavík, 1942
La nuit et le rêve, Paris, 1944
Natten och Drömmen, Stockholm, 1955
The Night and the Dream. Indianapolis ; New York : Bobb-Merrill company, [1938]
Den uerfarne Rejsende (Kirken på Bjerget), København
Der unerfahrene Reisende I, München, 1931
Óreyndur ferðalangur (Kirkjan á fjallinu III), Reykjavík, 1943
Den oerfarne resenären, Stockholm, 1955
Einsamer Reiter. München : Albert Langen/Georg Müller, 1941
Det nordiske Rige, København
Nordischer Schicksalsgedanke, München, 1936
ritgerðir Det Nordiske rige. København : Gyldendal, 1927
Hugleik den Haardtsejlende (Kirken på Bjerget), København
Der unerfahrene Reisende (II), München, 1931
Hugleikur (Kirkjan á fjallinu III), Reykjavík 1943
Kirken på Bjerget. [København] : Carit Andersen, 1964-1967. Myndskreytt af Gunnari yngri.
Island. Land og folk I-II, København
Svartfugl, København
Schwarze Schwingen, München, 1930 
Zwarte Vogels, Arnhem, 1930
Svartfågel, Stockholm, 1930
Saarelind, Tallin, 1935
L'Uccello nero, Milano, 1936
Svartfugl, Reykjavík, 1938
L'Oiseaux noirs, Bruxelles, 1947
Czarne ptaki, Poznan, 1932
The Black Cliffs, Madison (WI), 1967
L'Oiseau noir, Paris, 1992
Schwarze Vögel, Stuttgart, 2009
Qara Qayalar, Baku, 2018
Schwarze Schwingen. München : Langen Müller, 1930
 1929 En dag tilovers og andre historier, København smásögur En dag tilovers og andre historier. København : Gyldendal, 1929
Rævepelsene eller Ærlighed varer længst, København
Bragðarefirnir, Reykjavík, 1959
Rævepelsene eller Ærlighed varer længst. København : Gyldendal, 1930
Jón Arason, København
Jon Arason, Oslo, 1930
Jon Arason, München, 1932
Jon Arason, v. Praze, 1938
Jón Arason, Reykjavík, 1948
Jon Arason, Stockholm, 1959
Jón Arason, Tórshavn, 2015
Jón Arason. Berlin ; Darmstadt : Deutsche Buch-Gemeinschaft, 1954
Verdens Glæder, København
Lystisemdir veraldar, Reykjavík, 1962
Verdens glæder. [København] : Gyldendal, 1931
Vikivaki, København
Vikivaki oder Die goldene Leiter, Leipzig, 1934
Vikivaki, v. Praze, 1938
Vikivaki, Reykjavík, 1948
Vikivaki. København : Gyldendal, 1932
De blindes hus, København
Das Haus der Blinden, Leipzig, 1935
Frá Blindhúsum, Reykjavík, 1948
Das Haus der blinden. Leipzig : Im Insel Verlag, 1943
Jord, København
Jord, Oslo, 1933
Im Zeichen Jords, München, 1935
Jörð, Reykjavík, 1950
Jord, Stockholm, 1967
Im Zeichen Jörds. München ; Wien : Langen, Müller, 1935
Hvide-Krist, København
Der Weiße Krist, München, 1935
Bílý Kristus, Praha, 1948
Hvíti Kristur, Reykjavík, 1950
Der Weiße Krist. München : Langen, Müller, 1935
Die goldene Gegenwart, München
smásögur Die goldene Gegenwart. München ; Wien : Langen, Müller, 1934
Sagaøen, København
Island, Sagornas Ö, Stockholm, 1936
Island. Die Saga-Insel, Berlin-Dresden, 1936
Sagaøen. København : Martin, 1935
Graamand, København
Der graue Mann, München, 1937
Šedivec, Prerov, 1945
Grámann, Reykjavík, 1957
Gråman, Stockholm, 1964
Der graue Mann. Hamburg : Hoffmann und Campe, 1948
Advent im Hochgebirge, Leipzig
Advent, København, 1937
Advent, Amsterdam, 1938
Advent, Praze, 1938
Aðventa, Reykjavík, 1939
Advent, London, 1939
The Good Shepherd, New York, 1940
Hyvä paimen, Helsinki, 1941
Advent, Stockholm, 1953
Advent, Tórshavn, 1975
Le berger de l'avent, Paris, 1993
Advent, Moskva, 2013
Atvent, Tórshavn, 2015
Adviento en la montana, Madrid, 2015
De Goede Herder, Amsterdam, 2016
Advent (Arabic), Stockholm, 2016
Il Pastore d'Islanda, Milano, 2016
Advent, Oslo, 2016
Advent, Praha, 2017
Advent (Sadǝlövh çobanin ǝhvalati), Baku, 2018
Le Berger de l'Avent, Paris, 2019
Advent im Hochgebirge : Stuttgart : Reclam, 1951
1938 Inseln im großen Meer, Braunschweig smásögur Inseln im großen Meer. Braunschweig : Vieweg-Verlag, 1938
Trylle og andet Smaakram, København
Von Trylle, Valde und dem kleinen Hasen Lampe, Leipzig, 1939
Trylla and other small fry, London, 1947
Trylla and other small fry. London : Hutchinson, [1947]
1939 Das Rätsel um Didrik Pining : ein Bericht, Stuttgart safnrit  
Heiðaharmur (Urðarfjötur I), Reykjavík
Brandur paa Bjarg, København, 1942
Brandur auf Bjarg, München, 1944
Nacht bedreigt het Noorden, Amsterdam, 1945
Brandur z Bjargu, v. Praze, 1947
Brandur paa Bjarg. København : Gyldendal, 1942
Fljótsdalshérað (Árb. FÍ)
Árbók - Fljótsdalshérað. [Reykjavík] : Ferðafélag Íslands, 1944
Árbók 45, Reykjavík
Árbók 45. Reykjavík : Helgafell, 1945-1948
Árbók 46-47, Reykjavík
Árbók 46-47. Reykjavík : Helgafell, 1945-1948
Sálumessa (Urðarfjötur II), Reykjavík
Sjælemesse, København, 1953
Die Eindalsaga, München, 1959
Die Eindalsaga. München : Langen, Müller, 1959
Brimhenda, Reykjavík
Sonate ved havet, København, 1955
Sonat vid havet, Stockholm, 1956
Brimhenda. Reykjavík : Helgafell, 1954
1989 Sonnettusveigur, Reykjavík ljóð Sonnettusveigur. Reykjavík : Vaka-Helgafell, 1991. Myndskreytingar eftir Gunnar yngri.

The mansion

In 1939 the writer Gunnar Gunnarsson (1889–1975) had a mansion built as his family home on the farm Skriðuklaustur. The German architect Fritz Höger, a friend of the author’s, designed the mansion as well as the other buildings planned for the property, most of which were related to farming but were in fact never built. The mansion, however, remains a monument to the lofty intentions Gunnarsson had when returning to Iceland after achieving fame during his 30 years in Denmark.

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Gunnar Gunnarsson was nominated for the Nobel Prize in 1918, 1921, 1922 and 1955. He came close to receiving the coveted award when he was nominated in 1955. The Nobel Committee (composed of the Academy's secretary and two other members) recommended that the prizes should be shared between the Icelandic authors Gunnar Gunnarsson and Halldór Laxness.

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