Discover the best Icelandic authors in our guide to learn about the rich storytelling tradition of this ancient country.
Icelandic literature has a rich history dating back to the country’s earliest settlers in the 9th century. In the 20th century, Icelandic literature saw significant developments. Many notable authors, such as Halldór Laxness, who won the 1955 Nobel Prize in Literature, and others, such as Guðbergur Bergsson, Einar Kárason, Einar Már Guðmundsson, Þórbergur Þórðarson contributed to the body of literature coming out of the country.
Historically, Icelandic literature offers diverse styles and themes, with many notable writers and works that continue to influence and inspire readers today. Thanks to writers like the best Icelandic authors, Icelandic crime fiction and fantasy literature has been gaining in popularity in Iceland and internationally. Discover the best authors who self-published to inspire your writing career.
- Here Are The 11 Best Icelandic Authors
- 1. Arnaldur Indriðason, 1961 –
- 2. Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir, 1958 –
- 3. Einar Már Guðmundsson, 1954 –
- 4. Andri Snær Magnason, 1973 –
- 5. Yrsa Sigurðardóttir, 1963 –
- 6. Ragnar Jónasson, 1976 –
- 7. Lilja Sigurðardóttir, 1972 –
- 8. Viktor Arnar Ingólfsson, 1955 –
- 9. Auður Jónsdóttir, 1973 –
- 10. Hallgrímur Helgason, 1959 –
- 11. Sjón, 1962 –
Here Are The 11 Best Icelandic Authors
1. Arnaldur Indriðason, 1961 –
Arnaldur Indriason is an Icelandic author of crime fiction, best known for his Detective Erlendur series. Arnaldur Indriðason is one of Iceland’s most successful and internationally recognized authors. His works have been translated into multiple languages and have become popular worldwide. His novels are known for their complex plots, well-drawn characters, and evocative descriptions of Iceland’s landscape and culture.
Indriðason began his career as a journalist before turning to write fiction. He published his first book, a collection of short stories called Sólarlag, in 1997, but his first crime novel, Jar City, established his reputation as a writer. That book is the first in the series featuring detective Erlendur, which, so far, comprises 17 books. Jar City went on to win the Glass Key Award for Best Nordic Crime Novel. Indriðason has also been nominated for international awards, including the CWA Gold Dagger and Edgar awards.
2. Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir, 1958 –
Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir is a well-known Icelandic author for her novels and essays that often explore themes of identity, gender, and the natural world. Her works are widely recognized for their exceptional storytelling and witty and poetic prose. Some of her most notable works include the novels Animal Life, Butterflies in November, and Hotel Silence, all of which have been translated into multiple languages. The book Butterflies in November is particularly acclaimed, winning numerous awards and recognition. It’s been translated into 14 languages.
Apart from being an author, Ólafsdóttir is also a translator and university professor. She has held numerous positions in cultural organizations and has been a jury member of several literary awards, including the Nordic Council Literature Prize. Ólafsdóttir has received numerous awards and honors for her writing and contributions to the literary community.
3. Einar Már Guðmundsson, 1954 –
Einar Már Guðmundsson is an Icelandic author, poet, and playwright considered one of the most influential figures in contemporary Icelandic literature. He’s known for his works that explore the human condition and focus on the complexities of life in Iceland, often through the eyes of outsiders or marginalized people. He is the author of many literary works, such as the famous Angels of the Universe. His novel, The English Aliens, was adapted into a film.
Guðmundsson began publishing poetry in the 1970s. He published his first novel, Svartir Englar, in 1977, which received critical acclaim and established him as a prominent literary figure in Iceland. Guðmundsson’s work has been widely translated, and he has won numerous awards for his writing, including the Icelandic Literary Prize and the DV Cultural Prize. He speaks at several international literary festivals and events regularly.
4. Andri Snær Magnason, 1973 –
One of the most notable contemporary Icelandic authors is Andri Snær Magnason, an award-winning writer, bestselling nonfiction author, and documentary filmmaker. His book The Casket of Time is an enthralling tale of environmental calamity. This story of global warming and its effects on our planet is an essential topic of discussion in many countries.
Aside from his writing, he is a devoted advocate of the arts. He served as vice president of the Icelandic Writers’ Union and was a board member of Culture House in Reykjavik. He has also played an active role in fighting against the degradation of Iceland’s Highlands. As a result, he has significantly contributed to creating some of the world’s most famous and celebrated books.
He has penned many other works, including plays, essays, short stories, and poetry. His other famous works include The Story of the Blue Planet, Dreamland, and LoveStar. You might also enjoy our list of the best South African authors.
5. Yrsa Sigurðardóttir, 1963 –
Yrsa Sigurðardóttir is an Icelandic author of crime fiction known for her series of books featuring the character of defense lawyer Thóra Gudmundsdóttir and engineer-detective Freyja. She began her career as a civil engineer and later turned to writing. Her first book, Last Rituals, was published in 2005, establishing her as a prominent figure in Icelandic crime fiction. It was the first book in the series featuring Thóra Gudmundsdóttir and was translated into several languages.
Her second series of books, featuring the engineer-detective Freyja, started with The Reckoning, which was published in 2017 and translated into multiple languages. The books in these series are known for their engaging plots, unique and well-developed characters, and insightful examinations of contemporary Icelandic society.
Sigurðardóttir’s books have been critically acclaimed both in Iceland and abroad. She has won several awards for her writing, including the Glass Key Award, the Petrona Award, the Haraldur award, and The Icelandic Crime Fiction award. Her work has been translated into multiple languages and is well-received by readers worldwide.
6. Ragnar Jónasson, 1976 –
Ragnar Jónasson is an author and translator from Iceland, best known for his series of crime novels featuring the character of detective Ari Thór Arason. He began his career as a lawyer before turning to writing. He published his first book, Snowblind, in 2009, the first in the Dark Iceland series featuring Ari Thór Arason. The book was instantly successful in Iceland and was later translated into multiple languages. One of his novels, The Darkness, was selected as one of the 100 best crime novels since 1945.
Jónasson’s novels are known for their tightly plotted stories, complex characters, and evocative descriptions of Iceland’s landscape and culture. His books also often deal with the psychological and emotional impact of crime on both victims and offenders. Jónasson’s work has been critically acclaimed both in Iceland and abroad and has won multiple awards, including the Petrona Award, the Haraldur award, and The Icelandic Crime Fiction award. His books have been translated into multiple languages and are well-received by readers worldwide.
7. Lilja Sigurðardóttir, 1972 –
Lilja Sigurðardóttir is an Icelandic author known best for her crime novels, many of which feature the character of Detective Reykjavik police officer Sonja Jakobsdóttir. Her books have been translated into several languages and have become popular internationally. Lilja began her career as a translator but later turned to writing fiction. She has published several novels in Icelandic, including the popular Reykjavik Noir series.
Sigurðardóttir’s first novel, Snare, was published in 2008, and it was an instant success in Iceland and later translated into multiple languages. Her second novel, Trap, the first book in the Reykjavik Noir series, was published in 2010 and became an international bestseller.
One of her most popular recent novels is Cold as Hell. Her books have been well-received by critics, who have praised her complex characters, intriguing plots, and descriptions of Icelandic culture and society. She also writes a weekly column for an Iceland newspaper covering political and social issues.
8. Viktor Arnar Ingólfsson, 1955 –
Viktor Arnar Ingólfsson is an Icelandic author, translator, and journalist. His books, primarily crime novels, have been well-received by critics and readers alike. Ingólfsson has won several awards for his work, including the Icelandic Crime Fiction Award. His novels have been translated into several languages and well-reviewed both in Iceland and abroad. He is a frequent guest speaker, invited to events worldwide to talk about his books and Icelandic crime fiction.
Ingólfsson began his career as a journalist, working for various newspapers and magazines in Iceland. He later turned to writing fiction and published his first novel in 2008 to great acclaim. Ingólfsson’s books feature complex characters and intricate plots and often explore issues of morality and ethics. His fans love his sharp, darkly humorous writing style. Some of his most famous books include The Island, The Flatey Enigma, and The Darkness.
9. Auður Jónsdóttir, 1973 –
Auður Jónsdóttir is an Icelandic author known for her novels, poetry, and essays. She’s a highly respected figure in Icelandic literature and has won numerous awards for her work. Jónsdóttir started writing in the late 1970s. Her first book, a poetry collection called Næturkvöld, was published in 1979. Since then, she has published several novels, including the English-translated, Quake.
Jónsdóttir’s writing has been praised for its exploration of human emotion, intricate character development, and vivid descriptions of Iceland’s natural landscape. Her work is known for its exploration of feminist issues, the role of women in Icelandic society, its portrayals of marginalized groups, and its political and social commentary.
10. Hallgrímur Helgason, 1959 –
Hallgrímur Helgason is an Icelandic author known for his novels, essays, and poetry. He’s a versatile writer, and his work covers a wide range of themes and styles. He began his career in the late 1970s and has published over 20 books.
Helgason’s novels are known for their darkly comedic tone, wit, and satire. An example of this is The Hitman’s Guide to Housecleaning. His books also touch on social and political issues and explore relationships. Helgason’s books have been translated into several languages and critically acclaimed both in Iceland and abroad. Helgason has won several awards, including the Icelandic Literary Prize, the DV Cultural Prize, and the Halldór Laxness Literary Prize.
11. Sjón, 1962 –
Sjón, born Sigurjón Birgir Sigurðsson, is an Icelandic author, poet, and songwriter. Sjón is his pen name. He is a highly respected figure in Icelandic literature, known for his novels, poetry, and essays. He has received several awards for his work, including the Nordic Council Literary Prize. Sjón’s writing is known for its unique style, blending reality and fantasy and exploring cultural and historical themes. He has also touched on gender, sexuality, and social issues.
Sjón began his poetry career and published his first poetry collection in 1981. He went on to publish several other poetry collections and novels. His most notable novels include “The Blue Fox,” which won The Nordic Council Literary Prize, and Moonstone: The Boy Who Never Was, which was nominated for the International Dublin Literary Award.
His work has been translated into several languages and has received international acclaim. Interestingly, he’s also a talented songwriter and has contributed lyrics to some of Björk’s songs. If you liked this post, check out our round-up of the best Ethiopian authors.
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