Einar Már Guðmundsson

1995 Einar Már Guðmundsson, Iceland: Englar alheimsins

About the author

Einar Már Guðmundsson (1954 - ) - Iceland

Einar Már Guðmundsson was born in Reykjavik, Iceland. He started on his studies in comparative literature and history at the university in Reykjavik before moving to Copenhagen. He made his literary debut in 1980 with a collection of poems. Einar Már Guðmundsson’s first novel, Riddarar hringstigans, was released a few years later. He is regarded as one of the most distinguished Icelandic writers of his generation.

About the winning piece

Englar alheimsins (Angels of the Universe)

Published by: Íslenski kiljuklúbburinn
Publication year: 1995

Using dark humour, Angels of the Universe lends voice to the schizophrenic Páll, who, all his life, has been suffering from a split personality, bouts of temper, anxiety, unrest and paranoia. The scene of the novel is laid in Reykjavik, a growing town undergoing transformation. The story takes place between 1950 and 1980, a time of dissolution when old values fall apart without being replaced by new ones. Páll is looking for an explanation why his life turned out as it did – he is looking for an event or a trauma that flung him into his internal chaos. While Páll loses himself more and more in his longing for lost friends, childhood, being well, light and harmony, an idea is slowly making its way forward: leaving childhood is perhaps losing your mind?

This is what the Adjudicating Committee had to say

With poetic madness, civilisation and the world is experienced through a psychiatric patient's mind. Humour emphasises the gravity. The irony is clad in the veil of naivety. The novel opens an insight into the reality which we have become accustomed to calling normal.


En ég leitaði ekki til læknis. Ég lokaði að mér og skreið lengra inn í sjálfan mig.
Ég finn höfuðverkinn ágerast; þennan sama höfuðverk og læknar höfðu rannsakað nokkrum árum áður og Auðunn andalæknir tjáð sig um.
En nú er hann enn magnaðri. Ég ligg stífur. Ég get ekki hreyft mig tímunum saman.
Ég öskra og hverf niður í sálardjúpin þar sem ég mæti fyrri tilverustigum einsog afmælisdögum úr fortíðinni.
Það fer rafstraumur um herbergið.
Koddinn er að reyna að fljúga.
Pabbi og mamma vilja ræða við mig. Þau eru að biðja mig að koma fram að borða, biðja mig að koma fram og ræða málin, biðja mig um hitt og biðja mig um þetta.
Þau lofa að gera ekki neitt.
Þau lofa að segja ekki neitt.
Þau lofa ...

(s. 140, Íslenski kiljuklúbburinn, Reykjavík, 1995)

Angels of the Universe, English translation by Bernard Scudder:

But I didn’t consult a doctor. I locked myself away and crept farther and farther inside myself.
I could feel my headaches intensifying; the same hedaches that the doctors had examined several years before and Audunn the healer had pronounced his opinion upon.
But now they were even more intense. I lay stiff. I could not move for hours on end.
I screamed and vanished into the depths of the soul where I encountered earlier planes of existence like birthdays from the past.
An electric current was passing through the room.
The pillow was trying to fly.
My mother and father wanted to talk to me. They were asking me to come out and have something to eat, asking me to come out and talk things over, asking me this and asking me that.
They promised not to do anything.
They promised not to say anything.
They promised...

(p. 118-119, Mál og menning, 2002)

See all nominated in 1995  


  • Christian Skov - Høstnætter
  • Pia Tafdrup Territorialsang - en Jerusalemkomposition


  • Arto Melleri Elävien - kirjoissa
  • Irmelin Sandman Lilius - Korpfolksungen


  • Einar Már Guðmundsson - Englar alheimsins
  • Álfrún Gunnlaugsdóttir - Hvatt að rúnum


  • Torgeir Schjerven - Omvei til Venus
  • Bjørn Aamodt - ABC


  • Katarina Frostenson - Tankarna
  • Ulla Isaksson - Boken om E

Faroe Islands

  • Jens Pauli Heinesen - Bláfellid