Thursday, 30 June 2011

1000/483: 29 June 2011: Haldor Laxness

Halldor Laxness is a 20th century Icelandic author - the only Icelandic Nobel Laureate - who I first encountered on the way back from holiday in Iceland a couple of years ago. 'Under the Glacier' was a fairly short, and quite light, introduction to the weird world that is Laxness' Iceland of the 18th/19th century.

Iceland's bell is a considerably weightier read plotted a bit like an Icelandic saga, and written in a style that could perhaps be described as offhand Dickens - a mix of social commentary and detail written in such a casual way that it is almost black humour - but not quite.

You're left in no doubt that life was tough at the time - "His homecoming was as might be expected considering the dwellers there were either lepers or half-wits, if not both." but it's so bad it's almost Pythonesque.

The main characters include a good for nothing convicted murderer - although his guilt is always in doubt - a fair maiden, and an academic concerned only with Iceland's legacy and helping the poor receive justice whether they want it or not. There are a couple of 'leper with a trade' moments when criminals he has reprieved complain that no-one has sympathy with them any longer, but these are rather offset by, for example a convicted 'wizard' wishing that he could be beheaded rather than burned at the stake.

The plot wanders around Iceland, with the occaisional side trip to Denmark and is concerned largely with honour - Iceland's, the fair maiden's and the academics.

I could go on but I would eventually give away the plot so I'll shut up. Suffice to say I rather enjoyed it, but if you fancy giving Laxness a go I think 'Under the Glacier' would be an easier starting point.

I'm going to finssih with one mor qu

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