Icelandic oddness

2 09 2008

The Atom Station by Halldor Laxness

The Atom Station

The Atom Station

The Amazon synopsis has it thus:

When the Americans make an offer to buy Icelandic land to build an atomic war base, a storm of protest is provoked throughout the country and it is here that Laxness finds the catalyst for his story. Told by a country girl from the north, the novel follows her experiences upon taking up employment as a maid in the house of her Member of Parliament. She finds herself in a world very different to that of her upbringing and, marvelling at the customs and behaviour of the people around her, she emerges as the one obstinate reality in a world of fantasy. Her observations and experiences expose the intellectual society of the south as rootless and shallow and in stark contrast to the ancient culture of the solid and less fanciful north. The colourful, yet at times dark, cast of characters whom she meets personify the southern fantasy world. In this black comedy, Laxness has painted a masterpiece of social commentary as relevant today as when it was first written in 1948.

It really is a very good book indeed but thoroughly odd at every turn. The solid north appears as bonkers as the fantasy south which makes it a bit hard to grasp as a relevant social commentary.

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Singing fish

1 12 2007

The Fish Can Sing by Halldor Laxness

Fishy

A lovely little book telling of childhood and modest ambition in Iceland. Delicately observed and wonderfully evocative coming of age in the early 20th Century. Swinging between desire to be a fisherman of lumpfish and the exoticism of the famous international singer Garthar Holm, Alfgrim grows and learns about life beyond the bizarre denizens of the mid-loft at the house of Bjorn of Brekkukot. A gentle and touching tale.

4 star








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