Saturday 23 January 2016

Book Review: Independent People by Halldór Laxness

Title: Independent People
Author: Halldór Laxness 
Publisher: Vintage Classics 
Publication Date: 2008 (1934)  
Pages: 544 
Format: Paperback
Genre: Fiction 
Source: Birthday Gift
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Amid the bleak, frozen wastes of an Icelandic winter, Bjartur of Summerhouses tends his sheep. A proud, stubborn man, who ekes out his humble living in a constant battle against nature, he has at last acquired his own small holding after eighteen years as a hired hand.
Halldór Laxness's splendid achievement in this timeless, elemental masterpiece, which was one of the works for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1955, is to have evoked the mood and rhythm of life in an isolated community in a remote corner of Europe as no other writer has done since the time of the great Icelandic sagas. Richly lyrical, often humorous, conceived on a grand scale, and with a cast of memorable characters,
Independent People is one of the truly great poetic novels of our century. (Goodreads Synopsis)

Independent People is a book that creeps up on you. On the surface it's a story of a poor Icelandic farmer and his struggle for independence, having to deal with problems involving both family and sheep. But beneath, it is a beautiful commentary on the ideas of self, independence, and modernity. I came to care for all the characters and their troubles. They were none of them perfect, but that made them all the more believable and likeable. The sense of desolation and place were well established and, having visited Iceland myself last year, I felt I recognised the scene. This is a wonderful introduction both to Laxness' work and Icelandic modern literature.

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