Published in 1952, Wayward Heroes is part of the body of works for which Laxness was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1955. It is a masterfully written tragicomedy about the oath-brothers Thorgeir and Thormod, inspired by the old Icelandic sagas Saga of the Sworn Brothers and Saga of Saint Olaf. The brothers fight for glory, raid for treasure, and seduce women against the backdrop of a new cult of Christianity. But where the old sagas depict their heroes as glorious champions, Laxness does the opposite. As Thormod avenges Thorgeir's death, he demonstrates the senselessness of violence and the endlessly cyclical nature of obsession.
“• "Laxness is a beacon in twentieth-century literature, a writer of splendid originality, wit, and feeling." -- Alice Munro • "Laxness brought the Icelandic novel out from the sagas' shadow...to read Laxness is also to understand why he haunts Iceland--he writes the unearthly prose of a poet cased in the perfection of a shell of plot, wit, and clarity." -- The Guardian • "Science fiction. Table, fable, allegory. Philosophical novel. Dream novel. Visionary novel. Literature of fantasy. Wisdom lit. Spoof. Sexual turn-on. Convention dictates that we slot many of the last centuries' perdurable literary achievements into one or another of these categories. The only novel I know that fits into all of them is Halldór Laxness's wildly original, morose, uproarious Under the Glacier." -- Susan Sontag • "The qualities of the sagas pervade his writing, and particularly a kind of humor--oblique, stylized and childlike--that can be found in no other contemporary writer." -- The Atlantic Monthly • "Laxness habitually combines the magical and the mundane, writing with grace and a quiet humor that takes awhile to notice but, once detected, feels ever present...All his narratives...have a strange and mesmerizing power, moving almost imperceptibly at first, then with glacial force." -- LA Times • "One of the world's most unusual, skilled and visionary novelists." -- Jane Smiley "Laxness is a poet who writes at the edge of the pages, a visionary who allows us a plot: He takes a Tolstoyan overview, he weaves in a Waugh-like humor: it is not possible to be unimpressed." -- Daily Telegraph "More than any other novel I know, Iceland's Bell recreates a world Pieter Brueghel would have felt right at home, not merely in its fascination with bumblers (petty thieves, purblind watchmen) and grotesques (faceless lepers, hanging corpses), but also in its unearthly ability to find beauty in a landscape of destitution, wisdom in a congress of fools." --The New York Times Book Review "One quality that makes Laxness's novels so morally uplifting is their air of tender but urgent gratitude. While his tone can vary widely from book to book...the reader consistently feels that the books are conceived in a spirit of homage; they are some of the world's most substantial thank-you notes." -- Brad Leithauser, The New York Review of Books”