About the author
Ólafur Jóhann Sigurðsson grew up under simple rural circumstances and was taught school during winters by a travelling teacher. At the age of 15, he walked to Reykjavik with a clear objective: He wanted to be a writer. After a great deal of initial trouble, he experienced some progress, enabling him to study in Copenhagen and New York. His early works are novels written in the social-realism style, depicting Icelandic society’s modernisation process during the 20th century. He also published poetry, short stories and children’s books.
About the winning piece
Að laufferjum/Að brunnum is actually a collection of poems in two parts: Að laufferjum and Að brunnum. This was the first Icelandic work to receive the Literature Prize. Ólafur Jóhann Sigurðsson primarily expressed himself in a traditional lyric style. This is poetry imbued with a strong sense of nature; he expresses the joy humans feel by contemplating the variety of nature. But he also uses natural phenomena in more symbolic ways; water in particular becomes in his writing an ambiguously used symbol: water as a source of life, as the origin, as a stream – he remembers a well, as hinted in the Icelandic title.
Að laufferjum og Að brunnum
Published by: Menningarsjóður
Publication year: 1976
This is what the Adjudicating Committee had to say
Ólafur Jóhann’s lyrical art and message connects traditions in Nordic poetry with the consciousness of the conflict-ridden situation of modern man, which, for this poet, is expressed in the tragic contrast between nature and a society controlled by technology.