Rúnar Helgi Vignisson was born on June 2, 1959 in Ísafjörður in the West-fjords. After graduating from highschool in 1978 he studied English and Icelandic at the University of Iceland, completing a B.A. degree in 1981. He studied French at the Université de Grenoble in 1981-1982 and German at Goethe Institut in Murnau and Freiburg in 1982-1983. During the winter months of 1985-1986 Rúnar Helgi stayed in Copenhagen writing. He completed a M.A. degree in Literary Theory from the University of Iowa in the United States in 1987, and continued studying and lecturing at the same university for the next two years. Rúnar Helgi lived in Chicago during the winter months of 1989-1990 and again in 1992-1993 and in Perth in Australia in 1991, working as a writer and doing research. Rúnar Helgi has been a part time lecturer at the University of Iceland from 1992. He has written numerous articles about literature and culture for newspapers and magazines and worked for the radio. Rúnar Helgi became Chairman of The Icelandic Translators Association in 2009.
Rúnar Helgi's first novel, Ekkert slor (No Mean Thing), was published in 1984. Apart from novels he has written short stories and translated a large number of foreign works of fiction, among them books written by American, Australian and South-African authors. His novel, Nautnastuldur (Indulgence Denied), was nominated for the Icelandic Literature Award in 1990. Rúnar Helgi received The Icelandic Translator's Award in 2005 for his translation of Boyhood by J.M. Coetze and The Reykjavík City Children's Literature Award in 2006 for the translation of Sunwing by the Canadian author Kenneth Oppel.
Rúnar Helgi Vignisson lives in Garðabær in the greater Reykjavík area. He is married to Guðrún Guðmundardóttir and they have two sons.
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