Using Fresnel zone plates, a spatial resolution between 20 nm for soft x-rays and 70 nm for hard x-rays has been achieved. Improvement of the spatial resolution without loss of efficiency is difficult and incremental due to the fabrication challenges posed by the combination of small outermost zone width and high aspect ratios. We describe a novel approach for high-resolution x-ray focusing, a multilayer Laue lens (MLL). The MLL concept is a system of two crossed linear zone plates, manufactured by deposition techniques. The approach involves deposition of a multilayer with a graded period, sectioning it to the appropriate thickness, assembling the sections at the optimum angle, and using it in Laue geometry for focusing. The approach is particularly well suited for high-resolution focusing optics for use at high photon energy. We present a theory of the MLL using dynamic diffraction theory and Fourier optics.© (2004) COPYRIGHT SPIE--The International Society for Optical Engineering. Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.