Sixty years ago, Halldór Laxness became the Nobel Prize winner of literature, RÚV reports. He is the only Icelander to have received that honor.
Halldór was in Sweden October 27, 1955, when the academy’s decision was announced. A few days later, he left Sweden on board the ship Gullfoss. When the ship reached harbor in Reykjavik, thousands of his fellow countrymen were there to greet him.
He addressed the crowd and thanked them, especially the common people: “[O]nce more I will use a little quote I have sometimes had a chance to use before, about a poet who has sent his lover a poem –a series of poems. When she thanks him, he says these words in verse: ‘Don’t you thank me for these poems; it was you who gave them all to me before.’”
Following the Nobel ceremony, the author received a number of telegrams congratulating him. In a 1969 interview, he was asked what was the greatest honor an author could receive. He responded that the congratulations he received from drainage workers in Sundsvall, Sweden, had been especially heartwarming:
“[W]hat vitalizes the heart as much as knowing you are the reason the men who stoop over drains deep in the ground, trying to get the water to flow right, suddenly straighten up and step out of the drain in the middle of the laziness of winter darkness in Sundsvall to shout hurray for literature?” The only thank-you telegram Halldór sent that night was to the Drainage Company in Sundvall.