Þórbergur Þórðarson, one of Iceland’s most significant twentieth-century authors, was born and grew up at Hali farm, in the district of Suðursveit. At that time, this community was geographically isolated, cut off on both sides by rushing, sand-filled glacial rivers. Above it, there were massive mountain ranges topped by stretches of glacial ice; below it, a harbourless expanse of wave-beaten sands.
In the closed-off world of Suðursveit, life was characterised by a struggle with the powers of nature. Without a doubt, this fight stimulated the inhabitants’ mental capacity, demanding that they be highly practical, precise, skilled in crafts, and perceptive. The sole signs of any other world were the French sailing vessels which approached the shores in spring; these lured the young boy Þórbergur to seek adventure.
Kristján Karlsson wrote:
Þórbergur Þórðarson, essayist, parodist, lyric poet, folklorist, autobiographer, storyteller, polemist, is a great and original writer who evades simple classifications, because, ultimately, his distinction rests on a unique personality. During his career he has attempted a good many subjects, including theology, theosophy, linguistics and especially politics, almost infallibly achieving great polemical virtuosity and stylistic successes. But, again and again, he has returned to the autobiographical writings which may be said to form the core of his work. These have not followed a fixed pattern, appearing sometimes in bookform of more or less novelistic design or as episodes inserted among his other writings. The story which appears here in English translation, forms a part of an autobiographical work called Íslenzkur aðall (An Icelandic Aristocracy) which covers approximately one year of the early life of the writer as a speculative vagabond and day labourer. This book was first published in 1938.