HALLDÓR LAXNESS (1902-98) was born near Reykjavík, Iceland. His first novel was published when he was 17. The undisputed master of contemporary Icelandic fiction and one of the outstanding novelists of the twentieth century, his work was translated into more than 30 languages. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1955. J.A. THOMPSON was born in Berwick-upon-Tweed in 1910. After graduating in English and Nordic language and literature from the University of Leeds he worked as a school teacher in Akureyi in the north of Iceland from 1931-2 before moving back to Berwick. His translation of Independent People was his only work of translation, the labour of many years. It is generally accepted to be the finest translation into any language of Laxness's masterpiece.